This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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The 1877-CC Trade dollar was in theory a coin that should have never seen circulation in the U.S. By 1877, the Trade dollar experiment was failing and as bad as things were, Congress had managed to make them worse.
The Trade dollar was basically a coin created to be exported to China, where merchants seemed to only accept large silver coins. The U.S. could certainly do that as it had more silver than it could use. Making a slightly larger, 420-grain dollar was no problem and initially there was some acceptance of the coin in China. However, Chinese acceptance of the Trade dollar was not quite what the proponents of the idea had forecast.
In 1876, Congress stepped into the middle of what was already a difficult situation and revoked the legal-tender status of the Trade dollar. That meant that, even though the coin said “Trade Dollar” right on the reverse, it was no longer a U.S. dollar but rather 420 grains of .900 fine silver. At the time, the silver in a Trade dollar was worth less than a dollar, and the value was dropping fast.
It was in this atmosphere that Carson City produced 534,000 Trade dollars in 1877. While not high, the mintage was not as low as others of the 1870s, so the 1877-CC could be called an average Carson City date.
A lot of things could potentially happen to a Trade dollar, and that is part of what makes them very hard to predict in price if you rely on the mintages. A Trade dollar could have ended up being shipped to China as was supposed to happen. It could have ended up staying in China, coming back with chop marks, or circulating then later turned in and melted.
The 1877-CC is at $235 in G-4. This seems a bit high considering the mintage, but it is in line with the 1876-CC, which has a similar mintage of 509,000. The two are close in price in many grades, suggesting that they had similar fates.
The 1876-CC and 1877-CC have an interesting back-and-forth play in price. The 1877-CC is slightly better at $800 in AU-50, while the 1876-CC is $720. In MS-60, however, the 1876-CC is tougher with a price of $6,000 compared to $2,450 for the 1877-CC.
In MS-65, both are extremely tough. The 1876-CC lists for $78,500 and the 1877-CC lists for $60,000. The simple fact is that MS-65 Trade dollars are rare from any facility, but especially from Carson City. Numismatic Guaranty Corporation shows no examples of the 1876-CC in MS-65 and just a single example of the 1877-CC in MS-65. Professional Coin Grading Service reports a single 1876-CC in MS-65 along with one 1877-CC in MS-65 and another in MS-66. Realistically speaking, that makes both dates true bargains at their current prices.