Robert P. writes: When in Indonesia a few years ago, I was approached in Sulewesi by someone who showed me a 1876 Trade Dollar. I bought it because it looked like it could be very valuable. He said that it belonged to his grandmother. I think I paid the equivalent of about 3 or 4 dollars for it. You can clearly see the detail on both sides of the coin, but it is somewhat worn on the high spots. I was just wondering how many were made and how rare a coin like this is?
Now I wish I would have bought the rest of the coins he was selling, but I was a bit worried that they may have been counterfeits. I can see now that they were indeed real. Thanks for your response! Sincerely Robert P., Portland, Oregon.
The purpose of the United States Trade Dollar was to compete in the Orient with other, mostly British, coins used to trade for goods in that part of the world. The coin had more silver than the normal silver dollar (420 grains vs 412.5 grains) so it would match the British coin. It is not unusual to find them in Asia since that is where they were used. However, most of the pieces that did circulate in Asia are found “chop marked”. These are small symbols hand stamped into the coin that represented the mark of a banker and a declaration that the coin was genuine. It is not unusual to find many chop marks on Trade Dollars. Though I find chop marked Trade Dollars fascinating, they are valued less by collectors who are looking for pristine pieces. Genuine 1876 Trade Dollars in average circulated condition bring about $100.