It's Mokie's Blog

03 May 2022

The U.S. Trade Dollars 4 Ways

| It's Mokie

When we think of the U.S. Trade Dollar thoughts immediately go to the Far East China trade and the important roll the Trade Dollar had in advancing American economic and political interests in the region. The first Trade Dollar was produced in 1873 and after a short run, she disappeared from regular production in1878. Of course, proof production continued until 1885 but you will not be seeing a proof as one of the 4 ways today.

So, what prompted the Trade Dollar? As many of you are aware, 19th century China was an extremely poor country dominated by various European countries. The U.S. needed to assert their Right to some of the Chinese spoils as well. However, the Morgan Dollar (412 grains, .900 silver) was not going to cut it as The Chinese merchants only wanted the Mexican 8 Reales or its silver equivalent in exchange for goods. The French, the British, the Japanese, had their Trade Dollars made to that 8 Reales Standard (420 grains, .900 Silver) so the U.S. followed suit and minted the Trade Dollar to that standard.

The first example is probably the most well known of the Trade Dollar examples. It is my Trade Dollar covered in Chinese chop marks. The chop marks were placed on virtually all Trade coins, Spanish, Mexican, British, French, Japanese, and U.S. that circulated in China. The purpose of the Chopmarks was threefold. 1. To ensure the silver coin was genuine and of the proper fineness, 2. To place a mark upon the coin signifying it has passed muster, and 3. to maybe collect a small sliver of silver from each coin adding up to extra profits over time. My 1874-S example is heavily chopped but still retains great beauty.

The second example is the Potty Trade Dollar. Using engraving methods, both skilled and not, like those used for Love Tokens and later Hobo Nickels, the Potty Trade Dollar was engraved to make it appear Ms. Liberty is sitting on a privy and possibly bare breasted. My 1878-S example is a little crude but provides just the right amount of titillation to those late 19th century fops.

The third example is The Box or Opium Dollar. In this Trade Dollars were cut in half and turned into expertly hinged containers where you could have a picture of your Sweetie or maybe a touch of opium to pass the day. I have two examples of this type of Trade Dollar and I still marvel at the way the hinge allows the dollar to close almost perfectly. My 1878-P does not appear to have any remaining contraband, I checked.

The final example is your common day to day, kind of boring Trade Dollar that may have never even made it to China. They were legal tender in the United States for a time until silver prices increased and they were finally called in to be melted toward the end of their run. Oddly enough, the multilated examples were not accepted by the government possibly accounting for all of those available to us today? My 1875-S is also a survivor and the most recent acquisition from earlier this year.

In My Own Words and NOT to be posted in my collections. (:


I. R. Bama

Level 5

Great information and very interesting, Moke

AC Coin$🌎

Level 6

Great blog , Nice coins


Level 6

Really great blog and photos! Trade Dollars are favorite of mine. I have one In my collection...wish I could add to it! Love "The Box"! ; )


Level 7

Very good reading and information. Remember when I found one in one of my boxes?I sent a picture of it to Sam. He wrote back nice to see a real one!! I didn't know they were making these by the thousands in China. A great coin.. I would like to get one with chop marks. Thanks for sharing your work and research. We need more of that. Thanks again!!

Long Beard

Level 5

An excellent coin for a blog topic. The only thing I would add for anyone looking to collect these, be very careful as there are many, many counterfeits. Buy a few graded so you can use them as a reference if in the raw is what you're looking for.


Level 6

I just priced the Opium Dollars. Doesn't look good for me getting one.


Level 4

Great blog! Very interesting!


Level 6

I love this series of coins. I feel the Chop Marks add to them. I have heard of all your examples but the "Opium Dollar". Thanks a lot. I hope they aren't too expensive as I need one badly and now! It's funny that you posted this today. I put one of mine up on our Toner Tuesday. Mine is an 1874 CC. I learned a lot of good stuff from you today. I appreciate that this won't be also going up in your collection. Thanks for the great photos as well.

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