A little mystery tends to help a great rarity. So far that has not really been the case with the 1884 Trade dollar. It has been in the shadow of the even greater rarity 1885 Trade dollar. But even in the shade, it is a significant coin.
The situation in 1884 helped to add to the mystery of the Trade dollar. By then officials were calling for an end to their production. The last Trade dollar business strikes had been made in 1878, but there continued to be proof production (collectors, you know). In the case of the Trade dollar, there are a lot of interesting questions and not very many good answers. In this case, proofs just kept being produced.
The final order to cease Trade dollar production came very early in 1884. It did not, however, come on Jan. 1, 1884. Technically, there was time to legally make a few 1884 proofs.
We are not certain whether any 1884 Trade dollars were produced before the final order to halt production was received. Legal or illegal, any 1884 is a great treasure.
The official Mint records for 1884 show 264 Trade dollars, all proofs, were reportedly struck. If so, all but 10 were melted. The 1885 official report is blank, although we know that five 1885 Trade dollars exist.
Precisely what happened in 1884 is anyone?s guess. The known examples of the 1884 turned up in the estate of William Idler, a famous numismatist of the time, and were later sold by his son-in-law John W. Haseltime when he was in partnership with Stephen Nagy.
There were rumors about 1884 Trade dollars from 1884 until 1908. Why they were kept hidden is unknown. Perhaps that points to some uncertainty of the coins? legal status.
It is interesting that despite the secrecy, there was no belief that the coins might be worth high prices. The first coin Haseltime reportedly offered anyone was for just $40. In early 1900 $40 was a lot of money, but that was not a great rarity price.
There were a certain number of critics. The words ?fraud,? ?counterfeit? and ?pattern? saw print in describing the newly discovered 1884 Trade dollars. Such charges could not have helped their price. The newcomers to the small number of great rarities brought prices of $150 to $400 in the early years.
The 1884 Trade dollar, usually as part of an 1884 proof set, initially received more attention than the 1885. Eventually, the presence of greater numbers of the 1884 took its toll. The 1884 had double the mintage of the 1885.
Whenever an 1884 was offered at auction, it was usually from an important collection that seemed to include an 1885 more often than not. The 1885 would grab the headlines, and the 1884 would bring about half the price of the 1885. It was permanently in the shadow of the 1885.
Perhaps the only thing that has changed is the market. There are reports of an 1885 selling for over $3 million at a private sale. We have seen an 1894-S Barber dime, among other issues, top $1 million at auction.
There is no certainty that the 1884 will go over the $1 million mark and stay there, but based on other recent prices, it should. The 1884 might finally get some identity other than the more available of the Trade dollar rarities.