Description and Analysis

Trade Dollars
1873 CC T$1 MS

Description & Analysis

The year 1873 is among the most notable in the annals of U.S. numismatics. The Coinage Act of 1873 (a.k.a. The 'Crime of '73') legislated out of existence the two cent piece, the three cent silver, and the half dime. It omitted the (Liberty Seated design) silver dollar from the list of authorized coins while introducing the silver Trade dollar, slightly increased the silver content of minor coinage (signified by the 1873-74 With Arrows silver coin subtypes), and effectively bound the United States to the gold standard. Like so many U.S. numismatic issues that began with a bang, the two cent, silver trime, and half dime ended with a whimper with the issuance of the Closed 3 proof-only two and three cents, while the half dime saw a moderate business-strike issue.

The average spot price of silver, after peaking near the end of the Civil War in 1864 at almost $3/ounce, began a long-term slide. In 1870 the average price (London fix) was $1.43/ounce, by 1880 it was $1.12. The 1890s and 1900s brought further price collapses (with a couple of temporary spikes) to well below $1.00/ounce, a price range that persisted until 1967. A chief source of the long-term slide in silver prices was the Comstock Lode. The rich veins of Nevada silver were discovered in 1859, but lode production peaked in 1876 through 1878, when silver ore worth roughly $36 million was extracted annually. Silver prices were further destabilized in the late 19th century by the widespread shift of many nations from a silver standard to a gold standard. Germany adopted gold as its standard in 1871-73 (releasing 8,000 tons of silver onto the world market) and the Latin Monetary Union (France, Italy, Belgium, and Switzerland) did so in 1873-74. The Scandinavian Union (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) and The Netherlands followed suit in 1875-76. By the final decades of the 19th century, silver dominated only in the Far East, especially China. The Carson City Mint managed to eke out 2,300 examples of the Seated Liberty dollar and coined 124,500 Trade dollars in 1873, most of which were shipped immediately to the Orient. This date--despite having the lowest mintage of any business strike Trade dollar, with the sole exception of the 1878-CC--enjoyed virtually no demand or collector interest until the 1950s, after which the issue saw rapidly escalating prices as collectors began to finally recognize its rarity.

The 1873-CC is a well-known condition rarity in the Trade dollar series, especially in mint condition.

Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.