Question: I like chopmarked trade dollars and collect them. Quite a number of years ago I bought a 1873-CC chopmarked trade dollar graded EF-40 and paid a hefty premium over the price of a regular coin in that grade. I assume this had something to do with its rarity. How rare is it? Also, could you please discuss the rarity of the other dates if chopmarked. --B.C.
Answer:The vast majority of circulation strike trade dollars were sent to China. Dated from 1873 to 1878, these found ready use in commerce in Canton and other areas. Many of them were chopmarked -- stamped with characters signifying that recipients had found them to be “good money” and worth the value stated (420 grains of .900 pure silver). Some trade dollars circulated domestically from 1873 through mid 1876, but most of these seem to have been the issues made in Philadelphia. The West Coast mints, San Francisco and Carson City, were the main source for exports to China.
As to the availability of chopmarked 1873-CC trade dollars, these probably exist in proportion to 1873-S, with relation to their respective mintages. In later years the vast majority of these were melted. Others were crudely cleaned with abrasives. The number of “nice” 1873-CC trade dollars with pleasing appearing chopmarks is probably only in the hundreds today. Of all circulation strike trade dollars from 1873 to 1878, the rarest chopmarked issues is 1878-CC which is also the rarest date and mint. It seems that many of these were melted and not distributed.
The addition of a chopmark to a trade dollar adds a great deal of interest. Congratulations on having a very nice coin.