1878 Proof Trade Dollar

1878.jpg (86412 bytes)

The 1878 proof trade dollar from the Legend Collection of Proof Trade Dollars.  This coin is graded PCGS PF66 and has a population of eight with two higher.

 

Mintage

900 Proofs

 

Coinage Context

Trade dollar coinage stopped: On February 22, 1878, Secretary of the Treasury John Sherman, a foe of the trade dollar denomination, mandated that coinage cease. By this time Philadelphia had produced no business strikes, and made none later, only Proofs. Carson City had made some, production was halted there, and many extant coins were melted. San Francisco ended its coinage, but not immediately, as it wanted to take care of pending business and deposits.

 

Trade dollars not needed: The silver mining interests in Nevada didn’t care one way or the other, for almost simultaneously, on February 28, 1878, the Bland-Allison Act became a reality, and the government had to buy at inflated (subsidy) prices vast quantities of silver to be coined only into standard (Morgan) silver dollars: the first 412.5-grain silver dollars since the Liberty Seated type ended in early 1873. The politicians and silver-mining interests were happy. Nevertheless, in March 1878 representatives Horace Davis (of California) and Thomas Wren (of Nevada) testified before the Congressional Committee on Coinage, Weights & Measures in favor of resuming coinage of trade dollars for export. A few months later, Mint Director Linderman’s Annual Report argued at length for the minting of trade dollars for export, without making them legal tender. These efforts accomplished nothing.

 

What happened to all of the trade dollars? Some 35,958,460 trade dollars were produced for circulation from July 1873 through April 1878, of which 20,327,910 were minted after passage of the Act of July 22, 1876, which demonetized the coins. Up to the end of June 1876 the coinage amounted to 15,417,550, of which 12,580,000 were exported, leaving only 2,837,550 in domestic circulation.

Of the grand total number of trade dollars made from 1873 to 1878, all were exported except 6,607,632 pieces. This means that 82% of trade dollars minted served their intended purpose as items for international commerce. As noted later in the text, many trade dollars came back into the United States after 1878. Even before then, there was a limited influx of the denomination, particularly from silver traders in London. Although the Mint figures have a ring of absolute precision, in actuality the exact numbers will never be known as in many instances records were either not kept or transactions were not reported to the Treasury.

 

 

Numismatic Information

Varieties: All trade dollars of 1878 and later years are Type II/II. No exceptions have come to light.

 

Proofs only: Mintage at Philadelphia in 1878 was limited to Proofs. Mintage occurred in only four months: January 300, February 200, March 200, and May 200. Proof 1878 trade dollars were sold in sets; later issues, 1879-1883, were sold as singles.

 

Some remain unsold: By early 1879 there were 219 unsold 1878-dated Proofs on hand. These were distributed, presumably for bullion value or possibly face value, probably to coin dealers. This indicates that the Mint’s production of 200 Proofs in May 1878 was not needed, for these were never sold at a premium.

The official Mint issue price for Proof trade dollars from 1878 to 1883 was $1.025 each, according to one account, because the coin had been demonetized; most other sources give the figure as $1.25 each, a figure with which R.W. Julian agrees. (Earlier, when the coins were worth $1 face value each, 1873 Proofs were sold for $1.75 each in paper money or $1.50 each in silver.)

 

Two hoards: The late Don Corrado Romano, proprietor of the Worthy Coin Company, Boston, commenced to hoard examples of this issue in the 1940s and by circa 1960 had acquired a group estimated at 100 to 200 pieces. Max Mizel, a New York City dealer, purchased several dozen pieces over a period of time in the 1950s and 1960s. Presumably, both hoards have been dispersed in the years since their formation.

 

Availability of Proofs today: Most of the 900 original Proof pieces still survive. Examples are available, for a price, in the Proof-64 and better range. Most extant coins are Proof-60 to Proof-63, although on occasion the remark has been heard that Proofs of this date are rather plentiful in gem (Proof-64 or better) state. This has been a very popular date with numismatists of the twentieth century, who delight in low mintage figures.

 

Caveat emptor: Beware of 1878-S trade dollars with mintmark removed being offered as "1878" (Philadelphia Mint).

 

 

Varieties:

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

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

 

Proofs:

1. Normal date: All are probably of one type. Walter H. Breen asks this question: Have any the broken R and/or missing periods of 1877-S dies? If a new hub was used, how is it differentiated? Very slight traces of repunching on the date, particularly at the left side of the central 8 and 7.

 

 

1878 TRADE DOLLAR: MARKET VALUES

 

Click Here for Current Values

 

Year

Imp. P.

Proof

1878

---

$1.25

1880

---

1.50

1885

$1.25

1.50

1890

1.10

1.25

1895

1.10

1.25

1900

1.10

1.25

1905

1.10

1.25

1910

1.25

1.50

1915

1.25

1.50

1920

1.40

1.75

1925

1.75

2.50

1930

2.00

3.00

1935

2.50

4.00

1940

3.00

5.00

1945

6.00

12.50

1950

8.00

17.50

1955

14.00

32.50

1960

40.00

90.00

1965

140.00

300.00

1970

200.00

460.00

1975

500.00

1250.00

1980

900.00

2500.00

1985

1200.00

3200.00

 

 

Year

Imp. P.

P-60

P-63

P-64

P-65

1986

$800

$1280

$2400

$5100

$9200

1987

950

1150

$2500

3700

9500

1988

950

1175

3000

5300

12250

1989

1025

1400

3200

6250

14250

1990

900

1250

2400

5250

9750

1991

950

1300

1700

2900

7600

1992

950

1300

2000

3250

7000

1993

         

1994

         

1995

         

 

 

SUMMARY OF CHARACTERISTICS

1878

PROOFS:

Enabling legislation: Act of February 12, 1873

 

Business strike mintage: None

 

Designer: William Barber

 

Weight: 420 grains

 

Composition: .900 silver, .100 copper

 

Melt-down (silver value) in year minted: $0.9070

 

Dies prepared: Obverse: Unknown; Reverse: Unknown

 

Proof mintage: 900; 683 sold in 1878, 217 sold for bullion or face value in 1879; Proofs only. Delivery figures by month: January: 300; February: 200; March: 200; April: none; May: 200; June-December: none.

 

Characteristics of striking: Usually well struck

 

Approximate population Proof-65 or better: 50+/- (URS-7)

 

Approximate population Proof-64: 132+/- (URS-9)

 

Approximate population Proof-63: 177+/- (URS-9)

 

Approximate population Proof-60 to 62: 126+/- (URS-7)

 

COMMENTARY: The 1878 was the first Proof-only trade dollar issue made for collectors. No business strikes were produced.