Vol. XVI No. 4
Grading 1875-S, 1875-S/CC, 1876-CC and 1876-S Trade Dollars
By Randy Campbell, NLG
Reprinted with permission of the author and Coin World.
At the recently concluded Clearwater Coin Convention, a collector asked me, “Why have so few Trade dollars been certified in Extremely Fine condition?”
The cost of certification is one reason why some numismatists do not slab EF Trade dollars. At ANACS the cost for regular services is $10 per coin, plus shipping, for a submission of 10 or more coins. Some believe they cannot justify that fee, given the current bid of $115 for a common date Trade dollar in EF.
The scarcity of EF Trade dollars is, in my view, a more significant reason for the paucity of certified EF examples. Some dates (like the 1873 and the 1873-CC) saw nearly their entire mintage shipped to the Orient where must were chopmarked, destroyed or melted. Thus, it’s no surprise that just a few hundred Trade dollars, all dates combined, have been certified in EF by the major grading services.
1875-S (mintage; 4,487,000)
The 1875-S has the third highest mintage of any date in the series. I believe that most of them were exported for commercial use in the Orient. However, a substantial number were saved for domestic use, particularly on the west coast.
EF and AU: Despite its enormous mintage, the 1875-S is somewhat scarce in certified EF condition. ANACS has certified 35 coins, PCGS has slabbed 14 and NGC has certified only two examples in EF (current EF bid is $115). In AU, the three major services have encapsulated 246 coins (current bid = $175).
In his Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the United States(1993). Q. David Bowers estimates that over 25,000 examples of the 1875-S exist in the grades VF through AU (p. 985). However my estimate, based on some information of more recent origin, indicates the number of EF and AU survivors may be in the range of 5,000 to 10,000 pieces.
GRADING TIPS IN EF and AU: Is your EF 1875-S really EF? An EF trade Dollar should display about 80 to 85 percent of its wing and feather detail. Some original mint luster should be present.
MINT STATE 60 TO MS-63: The three leading services have certified 218 1875-S dollars in MS-60 or -61; 231 in MS-62 and 250 in MS-63. Current bid is $330 in MS-60 and $900 in MS-63. Bowers estimates (p. 985) that the 1875-S is the most readily available Trade Dollar in Mint State.
MINT STATE GRADING TIP: Most uncirculated 1875-S Trade dollars have acceptable (or better) luster. Those with inferior luster usually have been cleaned or victimized by environmental damage.
RECENTLY SEEN AT ANACS: An uncirculated 1875-S was re-engraved at the top of the right wing in attempt to disguise an old chopmark! This coin was net graded to the value of a VF-30. A very pleasing MS-64 featured creamy luster, few marks, and some weakness in strike in the upper obverse and the eagle’s left claw.
1875-S Over CC (mintage: UNKNOWN)
The 1875-S/CC is the only known over mint mark in the Trade dollar series. To the best of my recollection, Texas dealer Bob Medlar discovered an example in the early 1960’s. In late 1963, a corroded uncirculated S over CC sold at auction for the then considerable sum of $250 (see Bowers’, p. 986, for the fascinating details).
EF and AU: This is a very scarce issue in any grade. AN EF condition, the three major services have certified total of ONLY SEVEN COINS (bid = $550)! An AU condition, a total of 28 coins have been certified (bid = $900). Collectors may have to pay a significant markup over bid to obtain a certified example.
GRADING TIPS IN EF and AU: All 1875-S over CC dollars should be checked carefully for signs of corrosion or salt water damage. Pricewise, such coins are substantially devalued in the marketplace.
MS-60 TO MS-63: Recent population reports indicate that the major services have certified only eight 1875-S/CC dollars in MS-60 or 61; 13 in MS-62; and 6 coins in MS-63. Only two examples are known in Gem (MS-65) condition!
Currently, this issue is bid at $1,950 in MS-60 and $9,000 in MS-63.
GRADING TIPS IN MINT STATE: A one point grading mistake could cost you thousands of dollars with this date. Therefore, beginners should consider the option of buying only those Mint State examples already certified by one of the leading services.
RECENTLY SEEN AT ANACS: In recent months a total of three AU examples were downgraded to VF or EF because of cleaning, corrosion or damage. A pleasing EF-40 featured an average strike, nice luster and fewer than average marks, AU-55 displayed above average high point detail, pleasing luster, and absolutely no corrosion or pitting. It was the nicest circulated example I have seen of the 1875-S over CC in the last two years!
To clean or not to clean, that is the question. Some collectors’ preference for the so-called “bright and shiny look” can be traced to their experiences with proof sets. Others recall that bright roll of pennies they got from the bank. And older collectors remember that, back in the 1940’s, one of the standard reference guides devoted an entire section to cleaning coins with baking soda and a toothbrush! Thus it’s no wonder that so many of the old time collections feature coins that were abrasively scrubbed.
Generally speaking, cleaning coins is a numismatic no-no. Why? In the case of Trade dollars, cleaning usually removes not only dirt and grime but also a large percentage of the coin’s luster! It can also leave an abundance of deep, distracting, hairline scratches on a coin, thereby greatly lowering its value at resale time. When in doubt, DON’T CLEAN YOUR COINS!
1876-CC DOUBLED DIE REVERSE (mintage: unknown)
The 1876-CC with the massive double die reverse was generally unknown until California dealer, Jack Beymer’s discovery coin was illustrated in the November, 1984, Gobrecht Journal. Since then, the popularity (and price) of this item has risen steadily.
CIRCULATED GRADES: In my experience, the 1876-CC doubled die reverse is the rarest business strike Trade dollar. As of early 1999, PCGS has certified only one coin (an EF-45); NGC has certified only one coin (an AU-50) and ANACS has certified 33 coins, most grading EF or AU.
GRADING TIPS IN EF OR AU: About half of the double die reverse 1876-CC dollars suffer from cleaning, corrosion or chopmarks. Be sure to check all examples very carefully under good lighting conditions.
MINT STATE 60 TO MS-63: In his Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the United States, author Q. David Bowers state that “all specimens reported to me have been in circulated grades” (page 998). However, two MS-60 examples and two MS-61 examples have since been certified, all by ANACS. Clearly, it is the rarest Trade Dollar in Mint State condition!
PRICING: At the 1999 FUN convention, a collector showed me a certified EF-40 example he had just paid twice the listed bid price for a normal EF-40 1876-CC. Also, I vaguely recall another example selling for about three time the price of the normal 1876-CC. Are the prices typical? Time will tell.
RECENTLY SEEN AT ANACS: Amazingly, two AU examples an (AU-50 and an AU-55) appeared on my desk the same day! The AU-50 had an average strike and average luster; the AU-55 had an above average strike, average luster and few marks.
1876-S (mintage: 5,227,000)
The 1876-S is one of the five most common Trade dollar issues (along with the 1875-S, the 1877, the 1877-S and the 1878-S). As a group, these five dates account for the vast majority of all surviving Trade dollars.
EF and AU: The three major grading services have slabbed almost 400 1876-S dollars in either EF (bid = $115) or AU (bid = $180) condition. Pleasing circulated examples can be found at most major conventions.
GRADING TIPS IN EF and AU: The 1876-S is often flatly struck on stars 4, 5, and 6 and on the top of the head. A coin that might otherwise grade EF-45 could be lowered to EF-40 if the strike is very deficient.
MINT STATE-60 TO MS-63: This date is available in the lower Mint State grades ( about 400 have been slabbed by the major services). Currently, the 1876-S is bid at $330 in MS-60 and $970 in MS-63. However, fewer than 20 examples have been certified in MS-65 condition.
GRADING TIPS IN MINT STATE: An MS-63 1876-S should exhibit at least average luster. Deep, distracting abrasions should not be present (although a few marks will be seen). Avoid raw (uncertified) examples with black stains or very dark toning.
RECENTLY SEEN AT ANACS: An AU-55 example featured good luster, an average strike, and worse than average surface abrasions. An MS-64 displayed a very sharp strike, beautiful, satiny, luster and few marks. I was tempted to grade it MS-65!