U.S. Trade Dollar: Understanding Its History and Why It Is So Valuable

Trade Dollar

The United States trade dollar is one of the most valuable coins ever in circulation. The United States Mint minted the dollar to counter established trade coins in East Asia. The trade dollar played a vital role in influencing trading activities in the 1880s and 1890s. The idea of developing this dollar was conceived in the 1860s when the value of silver started dropping. This was due to increased mining activities in the western part of the United States. 

History of the U.S. Trade Dollar

Trade relations between the United States and China significantly increased in the 1860s and 1870s. While trading activities were flourishing, they faced a significant threat from the unlikeliest of places; the Mexican peso. The peso was doing very well, and many Chinese traders preferred it over the American dollar. 

The main reason was that the Mexican peso contained more silver than the U.S. dollar. This meant that American businesses had to exchange dollars for pesos, which involved high broker fees. The American government decided to develop the US trade dollar to fix this problem. The trade dollar value was higher than the dollar, making it a better option.

Following that move, the United States started minting the trade dollar in 1873. The trade dollar value was 90% silver and weighed more than the Mexican peso. In the first two years of the trade dollar’s production, the government sent almost all minted coins abroad to reduce trading problems. After some time, the legal domestic tender was granted. This meant that the trade dollars started being used locally. 

As expected, the US trade dollar was a huge success abroad. Including the Chinese, foreign traders embraced the trade dollar and preferred it over the Mexican peso. Its heavier weight and more silver was the main reason for that. To make them unique, Chinese traders put chop marks on trade dollars. Besides, the chop marks on the US trade dollar were intended to test the coin’s authenticity. When the dollar was used in a transaction, it would get chop marks as it was passed from one merchant to another. Thanks to the trade dollar value, its demand increased. It became one of the most sought-after commodities both locally and abroad. 

The Trade Dollar Value

As mentioned earlier, the US trade dollar value is one of the highest. When looking to acquire these coins, you tend to ask yourself many questions. For instance, you might want to know if the coins were popular back then, their value, and their history. The trade dollar is an excellent piece of American history. That alone increases that trade dollar value. Besides, the dollar contained 90% silver and 10% copper. This significantly increases its value because silver is a precious commodity. 

The Trade Dollar Is a Great Piece of American History

The trade dollar is an excellent piece of American history, and it is ideal to have it in your collection. It is one of the most versatile and valuable coins ever created by the United States Mint.


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