1876-S Trade Dollar, very close to full MS-65 quality — $3,850 SOLD

1876-S Trade $1 [T1 Obv. T2 Rev., the rarest of the three varieties.] PCGS Secure Holder MS64+.

The price jumps into 5 figures in MS-65.

Listed as Pop.6, although I have found this same coin with three distinct MS-64+ cert. numbers, creating the possibility of a real population of maybe only 3 or 4 in MS-64+. Viewing the coin in hand I can certainly see why it has been resubmitted several times. It screams “upgrade potential,” and with the big price jump to MS-65 it’s natural that owners are going to try to achieve the higher grade.

We have been led to think of the 1876-S Trade Dollar as a common date, but it is anything but that in high grades of MS-64+ and above. There are only a maximum of six coins graded MS-65 and only one MS-66 at PCGS. There are none graded higher than MS-66. So while the real number of MS-64+ coins is only 3-4, there is a maximum of only 7 coins graded higher, assuming no double counting for regrades. That is unlikely, of course.

To understand why a common date in circulated and low grade mint state conditions is so rare in high grade uncirculated condition, read Dave Bowers excellent explanation below (hint: nearly all were sent to the Orient for circulation):

Dave Bowers:
The following narrative, with minor editing, is from my “Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia” (Wolfeboro, NH: Bowers and Merena Galleries, Inc., 1993):

The year 1876 at the San Francisco Mint saw high volume production of trade dollars primarily from Nevada silver. Production was strong each month, and by the end of December some 5,227,000 coins had been ejected from the presses, a new record for the denomination. Many of these were made for the Nevada Bank of San Francisco.

Most coins were shipped to the Orient, although some were circulated domestically, particularly before the demonetization act of July 22, 1876 took effect.

Numismatic Information

Varieties: The 1876-S is known in three combinations: I/I, I/II, and II/II. A sample of 43 1876-S trade dollars studied by Mark Borckardt in 1992 contained 27 (62%) I/I, eight (19%) I/II, and eight (19%) II/II; although the data base is small, this seems to provide an indication of relative availability.

Mint State grades: In MS-65 grade the 1876-S is rare. At the MS-64 level the estimated population is 100 to 200 or more, increasing to 175 to 300 or more at the MS-63 range. Most Mint State 1876-S trade dollars are in the MS-60 to 62 range, as reflected by the estimated population of 900 to 1,800 or more coins.

A common issue: Although MS-64 and finer coins are fairly scarce, in MS-60 through MS-63 grades this is the third most common circulation strike trade dollar. In circulated grades the 1876-S is believed to be the fifth most common trade dollar, exceeded in availability only by 1877-S (most common), 1878-S, 1875-S, and 1877. Chopmarked coins are common.


The American Journal of Numismatics, April 1876, reprinted the following newspaper commentary from the San Francisco Chronicle:

“The new trade dollar is fast becoming a drug in the market. Our banks and money-broker offices are becoming glutted with them. Their greater intrinsic value as well as their novelty threatened for awhile to crowd the familiar half dollar and the handy quarter out of sight.

“Chinamen remitting their hard-earned savings to their far-distant land would have nothing but trade dollars. (A reference to Chinese who had come to the United States to be laborers on railroads and other projects, and who sent part of their wages back home.) Oriental commerce was, and still is to a large extent, conducted on the solid basis of this bright, new and ringing silver representation of value.

“But the Orient, like San Francisco, is beginning to find that it is possible to be surfeited with even so much coveted a treasure as the trade dollar. The result is that reaction has set in against that coin in this market, and it no longer enjoys a preference over other silver. On the contrary, although a trade dollar is intrinsically worth eight cents more than two half dollars, the two halves will sell in the street from a half to three-quarters of a cent more than the dollar. The reason for this is primarily because of the super abundance of the latter. But there is another reason which is not generally understood. Halves and quarters of the United States are a legal tender for all payments up to a certain amount; the trade dollar is not a legal tender at all for any amount.” It is merely a stamped ingot, having a certain value, like an ounce of gold, a diamond, or a bushel of wheat. It is a commodity, the value of which fluctuates according to the supply and demand.”