Trade Dollar

views updated


TRADE DOLLAR. The currency law of 1873 created a special silver dollar, weighing 420 grains instead of the standard 412.5 grains, ostensibly to encourage trade with China, but more probably to provide a market for domestic silver producers (see Crime of 1873). The bulk of the 36 million pieces coined went to China, but at least 6 million were forced into circulation in the United States, despite the fact that after 1887 they were no longer legal tender. Many were bought at a discount and paid out at par to immigrant laborers who were forced to take the loss. Hoping to force the government to buy new silver, the silver interests delayed government redemption of the coins until 1887.


Carothers, Neil. Fractional Money: A History of the Small Coins and Fractional Paper Currency of the United States. New York: Wiley, 1930.

Schwarz, Ted. A History of United States Coinage. San Diego, Calif.: Barnes, 1980.

Neil Carothers / a. r.

See also China Trade ; Currency and Coinage ; Free Silver ; Money ; Silver Prospecting and Mining .