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The 1878-S Trade dollar issue marks an important nexus in the history of U.S. silver dollar production. The Trade dollars were on their last legs. The 1878 Carson City and San Francisco Trade dollars would prove to be the last circulation issues, the 1879-1883 were proof-only issues, and the famous 1884 and 1885 proofs were produced under suspicious circumstances not relevant here. In 1878 the Morgan dollars were seeing their initial year of production at those same mints.
The 1876-S through 1878-S Trade dollars were produced in quantities of 5.2 million, 9.5 million (a series record), and 4.2 million coins, respectively--enormous figures for any coin of the era. The 1878-S Morgan dollar took up the reins from the fading series, issued to the extent of 9.8 million pieces.
It is no coincidence that those enormous silver dollar production figures coincide with the peak years of Nevada's fabled Comstock Lode, which from 1876 through 1878 is estimated to have produced silver bullion worth about $36 million each year. The mine's bullion production would slowly dwindle until about 1892, when the 'bottom of the barrel' began to be scraped.
Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.
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