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Obverse of the United States trade dollar

The trade dollar was a United States dollar coin minted to compete with other large silver coins that were already popular in East Asia. The idea first came about in the 1860s, when the price of silver began to decline due to increased mining efforts in the western United States. The Coinage Act of 1873 made trade dollars legal tender up to five dollars. The coins were first struck in 1873, and most of the production was sent to China. Eventually, bullion producers began converting large amounts of silver into trade dollars, causing the coins to make their way into American commercial channels. This caused frustration among those who were given them in payment, as the coins were largely maligned and traded for less than one dollar each. In response to their wide distribution in American commerce, the coins were officially demonetized in 1876, but continued to circulate. Production of business strikes ended in 1878, though the mintage of proof coins continued until 1883. The trade dollar was remonetized when the Coinage Act of 1965 was signed into law. (more...)

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