Description and Analysis

Trade Dollars
1884 T$1 PF

Description & Analysis

The U. S. Mint did not offer proof trade dollars for sale in 1884, and yet a handful of examples exist. A single pair of dies for this issue was furnished by the Philadelphia Mint's Engraving Department on January 3 of that year, and shortly thereafter copper trial strikes were struck. A total of 264 proofs were delivered to the mint's cashier on the 19th, and presumably these were all silver pieces. Before any were distributed, however, instructions were received from Washington to discontinue production of trade dollars for sale to collectors. Nevertheless, some ten proof sets including the trade dollar were acquired by the well-connected Philadelphia coin collector/dealer William Idler, probably with the assent of Philadelphia Mint Superintendent A. Loudon Snowden. On January 2 of the following year the sole pair of dies created for 1884 trade dollars was destroyed along with all other obsolete dies.

Though the existence of this date was rumored at the time, collectors remained in the dark about this emission for more than 20 years. It was not until 1908 that dealer John W. Haseltine, Idler's son-in-law, announced that he had found 10 1884 proof sets and five 1885 sets containing trade dollars within Idler's collection. In reality, these were known to him all along, and he and partner Stephen K. Nagy already had secretly sold five of the 1884 edition to Virgil Brand.

Given its great rarity and value, the 1884 trade dollar is an entry in the series that will forever be exclusive to very well-heeled collectors. Coin albums for this series have never included the 1884-85 issues.