1876 Trade Dollar

The 1876 mint state trade dollar from the Legend Collection of Mint State Trade Dollars.  It is graded PCGS MS67 and has a population of one with none finer.

 

Mintage

455,000 Business strikes

 

Coinage Context

Silver coins in circulation: By the summer of 1876 there were vast quantities of coins stored at the mints. Under the Specie Resumption Act of January 14, 1875, they could be exchanged for Fractional Currency notes, but the public was slow in making such redemptions. As it developed, millions of dollars’ worth of Fractional Currency pieces were never turned in. The Act of April 17, 1876 directed the Treasury to issue coins, but relatively little coinage circulated until after the Act of July 22, 1876, which provided that Legal Tender notes could be used to secure silver coins. The same act demonetized the trade dollar and limited its production to coinage for export. (Nearly a century later, the Coinage Act of July 23, 1965 inadvertently restored legal tender status to the trade dollar; see Additional Information under the 1885 trade dollar.)

To this point in American history there were many teenagers who had never held silver dimes, quarters, or half dollars in their hands or jingled them in their pockets. They were accustomed to Fractional Currency notes, usually referred to as "stamps," and coins of smaller denominations, the Indian cents, the bronze two-cent pieces, and the nickel three-cent coins.

 

Trade dollars: Carothers wrote: "Early in 1876 the price of silver reached the point at which it was profitable to coin [trade dollars] for circulation on the San Francisco coast. By the middle of that year the coins were flooding retail trade in California and shortly thereafter they were selling at a discount. By the end of the year the rise in value of greenbacks brought a similar development in the East. Trade dollars appeared in circulation all over the country."

 

Unadopted proposals: Director of the Mint Dr. Henry R. Linderman, a long-time friend of the silver political interests, recommended in 1875 that the trade dollar be made legal tender in amounts up to $10, a doubling of the trade dollar’s current limit. In early 1876 the House of Representatives passed legislation which went beyond Linderman’s hopes and provided that the coins be legal tender in amounts up to $50. However, the bill did not pass the Senate.

Linderman also proposed that a special commemorative reverse be made for 1876 trade dollars, to honor the 100th anniversary of American independence. Had this come to pass—which it didn’t—it would have been the first United States silver commemorative coin. Elements of the proposed design were used in the 1876 Assay Commission medal, which has the border inscription YEAR ONE HUNDRED / OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE enclosing a heavy oak wreath.

 

Later production limited to export: While many if not most of the 1876 trade dollars minted in the first half of the year may have been used domestically (and this constituted the bulk of the coinage for the year), virtually all of the later ones were shipped to China. After the implementation of the Act of July 22, 1876, American citizens who had received trade dollars for face value could obtain no more than melt-down or bullion value for them.

A spate of legal challenges ensued. Some keen minds proposed that trade dollars minted after July 22, 1876 bear distinguishing marks. Under this suggestion, earlier trade dollars would be legal tender and later ones wouldn’t. Nothing came of the idea, and the government continued to repudiate its earlier obligation. The American public was left holding the bag.

 

Numismatic Information

Varieties: As noted earlier, in 1876 there was an obverse hub change. The Type I obverse (in use since 1873 and continued in use in 1876) is readily distinguished by having the ends of the ribbon (on which LIBERTY is imprinted) pointing to the left. The new Type II obverse, introduced in 1876, has the ribbon ends pointing downward. A coin with a Type I obverse and Type I reverse is referred to as Type I/I, a coin with a Type I obverse and Type II reverse is Type I/II, etc.

The 1876 Philadelphia Mint trade dollar in business strike form comes in Types I/I, I/II, and II/II, the last being very rare.

Circulated grades: 1876 trade dollars are readily available in grades from VF-20 through AU-58. I estimate the population to be in the range of 2,000 to 4,000 pieces.

Most surviving 1876 trade dollars are Type I/II. However, among chopmarked coins, the Type I/I seems to be more available than the Type I/II; the explanation for this is unknown. In general, chopmarked 1876 trade dollars are rare. Perhaps after demonetization, fewer 1876 Type I/II trade dollars went overseas, while increasing numbers reached citizens by way of unscrupulous bosses and company stores.

Mint State grades: Among Mint State Philadelphia Mint trade dollars, the 1876 is the most plentiful coin in existence today, although in lower Mint State ranges the 1877 gives it a run for the money. Many Uncirculated coins seen in collections today have deep gray or even black toning and may represent specimens saved by the public as a souvenir of the 1876 centennial year, or perhaps there is another explanation.

In a survey of auction appearances of 21 Mint State 1876 trade dollars, Mark Borckardt found 14 (66%) to be Type I/I, 6 (29%) to be I/II, and one (5%) to be II/II. Although this sample is small, it does give an indication of relative availability.

My estimates of the surviving population are as follows: MS-65 or better: 40 to 60; MS-64: 150 to 300; MS-63: 200 to 400; MS-60 to 62: 700 to 1,200.

 

Varieties:

OBVERSE TYPE I: RIBBON ENDS POINT LEFT, 1873-1876

REVERSE TYPE I: BERRY BELOW CLAW, 1873-1876

 

Business strikes:

1. Breen-5798. Obverse type of 1873-1876. Most surviving 1876 trade dollars are of the I/I type.

 

2. Breen-5798. Obverse type of 1873-1876. As preceding, but reverse with broken letters (hub damage); tops of E’s and F gone, missing serifs on UNI D S M RI. No period after FINE.

 

OBVERSE TYPE I: RIBBON ENDS POINT LEFT, 1873-1876

REVERSE TYPE II: NO BERRY BELOW CLAW, 1875-1885

 

Business strikes:

1. Breen-5799. Often chopmarked. Eight pairs of dies. This issue is about twice as scarce as I/I.

 

OBVERSE TYPE II: RIBBON ENDS POINT DOWN, 1876-1885

REVERSE TYPE II: NO BERRY BELOW CLAW, 1875-1885

 

Business strikes:

1. Type II/II. Very rare. Apparently, only a few were struck. In a survey of 21 auction appearances of Mint State 1876 trade dollars, Mark Borckardt found only one of the Type II/II issue.

 

 

1876 TRADE DOLLAR: MARKET VALUES

 

Click Here for Current Values

 

Year

VF

EF

AU

Unc.

 

1876

---

---

---

$1.00

 

1880

---

---

$0.90

1.00

 

1885

---

$0.90

.90

1.00

 

1890

$0.90

.90

.90

1.00

 

1895

.90

.90

.90

1.00

 

1900

.90

.90

.90

1.00

 

1905

.90

.90

.90

1.00

 

1910

.90

.90

1.00

1.25

 

1915

1.00

1.00

1.10

1.25

 

1920

1.00

1.00

1.10

1.25

 

1925

1.25

1.30

1.40

1.50

 

1930

1.25

1.30

1.40

1.50

 

1935

1.30

1.40

1.50

2.00

 

1940

1.75

2.40

2.75

3.00

 

1945

3.00

3.25

3.50

4.50

 

1950

3.50

4.00

4.25

6.00

 

1955

7.50

8.50

9.50

13.50

 

1960

13.00

16.00

19.00

27.50

 

1965

22.50

30.00

35.00

50.00

 

1970

37.50

47.50

60.00

110.00

 

1975

75.00

85.00

120.00

475.00

 

1980

75.00

125.00

240.00

775.00

 

1985

75.00

150.00

275.00

975.00

 

 

 

Year

VF-20

EF-40

AU-50

MS-60

MS-63

MS-64

MS-65

1986

$75.00

$150

$275

$625

$1625

$3200

$6600

1987

85

165

290

600

1640

3400

7300

1988

85

170

300

575

1645

3500

9800

1989

80

170

290

625

1750

5250

16500

1990

85

160

260

510

1200

5250

11500

1991

85

160

260

500

1300

3200

7700

1992

90

125

250

475

1400

2850

7700

1993

             

1994

             

1995

             

 

 

SUMMARY OF CHARACTERISTICS

1876

BUSINESS STRIKES:

Enabling legislation: Act of February 12, 1873

 

Designer: William Barber

 

Weight: 420 grains

 

Composition: .900 silver, .100 copper

 

Melt-down (silver value) in year minted: $0.9101

 

Dies prepared: Obverse: 8+; Reverse: 8+. Eight pairs were destroyed on January 3, 1877.

 

Business strike mintage: 455,000; Delivery figures by month: January: 81,000; February: 64,000; March-May: none; June: 65,000; July: 86,000; August: 84,000; September: 75,000; October-December: none. If all eight die-pairs were used, the average is only 56,875 per pair, fewer than at the S or CC mints. Possibly fewer die pairs were used.

 

Approximate population MS-66 or better: 8 to 10+ (URS-4)

 

Approximate population MS-65 or better: 40 to 60 (URS-7). Most are Type I/II.

 

Approximate population MS-64: 150 to 300 (URS-9). Most are Type I/II.

 

Approximate population MS-63: 200 to 400 (URS-9). Most are Type I/II.

 

Approximate population MS-60 to 62: 700 to 1,200 (URS-11). Most are Type I/II.

 

Approximate population VF-20 to AU-58: 2,000-4,000. (URS-13) Most are I/II.

 

Characteristics of striking: Many are well struck, but many others are lightly struck on the eagle’s dexter claws.

 

Known hoards of Mint State coins: None

 

Rarity with original Chinese chopmark(s): Type I/I, the combination usually seen; Type I/II, very scarce. Type II/II, believed to be very rare.

 

COMMENTARY: Despite its relatively low mintage the 1876 Philadelphia Mint trade dollar is readily available in most grades.