I would like to introduce a previously unlisted reverse hub type for the Trade dollar, but before I do, some background is in order.
Word has reached me that a much needed reference on the U.S. Trade Dollar series is in the works. Up until it is published, collectors interested in these coins have relied on information found in the Breen Encyclopedia, the Gobrecht Journal, and a section of Dave Bower’s Encyclopedia of Silver Dollars. Apparently, some updated information in the Gobrecht Journal, a publication of the Liberty Seated Collectors Club (LSCC), is unknown to the average dealer/collector.
In an effort to promote the correct identification of the design types and true relationship of their usage before any more reference books are published, I’ll illustrate the well-known and the unrecognized Trade dollar types in this article so that interested readers may expand this research and their collections.
I’ll also reveal an unlisted new hub type. Other numismatists have noted several minor anomalies on the reverses of these coins such as the size/appearance of the period/comma after “Grains.” These sub-types are not dealt with here as they too have been largely ignored.
In 1994, I discovered some major design changes that occurred in the middle dates of the Trade dollar series. The different designs were illustrated and described along with a chart of the revised known hub combinations in issue #61 of the Gobrecht Journal. The design changes involved significant (naked eye) modification to the hubs used to make the dies for these coins.
I updated additional findings in Issue #63 published eight months later in 1995. For the most part since then, the collecting fraternity and auction companies have ignored or are ignorant of these design changes and continue to use the outdated, incorrect nomenclature to identify many obverse and reverse types of these coins. In view of this indifference to the new hub types I identified decades ago, I have been both negligent and reluctant to publish any new research, die combinations, and a new reverse hub for these coins that I discovered since 1995.
Fortunately, in the interim, several members of the LSCC have made further contributions illustrating many of these varieties and one “new” die combination that confirmed several of my findings. Their efforts and a Type Chart showing the relative percentages of Trade dollar hub combinations for each date and mint can be found in the Gobrecht Journal. I’m fairly certain that this article will result in additional minor changes made to the hubs and dies that remain to be discovered or that are not illustrated here. Hopefully, this article will also encourage auction houses/dealers to accurately attribute these pieces as serious collectors scramble to actually complete their Trade Dollar Registry Sets!
Up until 1994, Trade dollars were divided into two design types by researchers and authors. These types were identified by the number of fingers on Liberty’s outstretched arm and position of the ribbon end on the obverse, or the presence/lack of a berry under the eagle on the reverse. In 1994, while authenticating a large collection of Trade dollars, I observed several differences between coins having the same date, mint and “type.” This caused me to wonder if I had discovered another group of state-of-the-art counterfeits similar to the counterfeit 1896 “Micro O” Morgan dollar I condemned in 1993 as an authenticator at PCI.
After several weeks trying to prove the odd coins were counterfeit, a pattern emerged. The early dates in the series matched the obverse and reverse diagnostics previously used to identify Type 1 coins and the later dates matched the Type 2 diagnostics. Some coins in the mid-dates matched the accepted Type 1 and 2 designations while many did not. In my Gobrecht Journal article, I revised the Type designations to include the “newly discovered” 2M Obverse and 2M Reverse hubs. This resulted in changes to hub combinations occurring principally in the 2M range of dates (1875, 1876 and 1877). The old Type 2 Reverse nomenclature was changed to 2L at the suggestion of the Gobrecht Journal editor to keep things simple and to highlight the “new” 2M division of the no berry reverse. Most revelations here will deal with the reverse hubs of these coins.
The micrographs in this article illustrate basic characteristics well informed numismatists have used to identify the existing Trade dollar types.
I have also included micrographs of a “rogue” hub I discovered decades ago. I named this reverse the “Split Tail” and so far it is only found on coins dated 1877-S. It did not result from a doubled die. For this article, I have continued to use the alpha-numeric hub nomenclature found in the Gobrecht Journal. When numismatic researchers and Trade dollar specialists have identified and verified all the known hubs, it is quite possible that a new numbering scheme will become universal. Perhaps something simple: Obverse 1, 2, 3 and Reverse 1, 2, 3 (split-tail), and 4.
NOTE: Only some of the major design differences found on each hub are illustrated here for quick identification. The Type 1 coins are identified by three fingers, sideways pointing ribbon ends, and a berry on the reverse.
The Type 2M and Type 2L varieties have several common characteristics. That’s possibly the reason no researcher looked past the obvious: turned-down ribbon ends and lack of a berry! A closer examination reveals that the Type 2M coins are easily separated by the lack of a finger spur, doubled banner, and their protruding back feathers.
There are many other design differences between each hub type such as Liberty’s dress folds or the eagle’s head and leg segments. Some characteristics such as the “finger spur” and lack of a berry under the eagle occur on two different hub types. I’ve outlined many of the hub characteristics below and have illustrated several design elements to identify them. I have purposely left out many illustrations in this piece in order to spur curiosity and promote personal research for those interested.
Type 1 Obverse: Three fingers (fig.1), sideways ribbon end (fig.3), notched banner, finger spur (fig.5).
Type 1 Reverse: Berry under claw (fig.9), smooth back feathers.
Type 2M Obverse: Four fingers (fig.2), turned-down ribbon ends, no finger spur (fig.6), doubled top banner (fig.7).
Type 2M Reverse: No berry, protruding double back feathers (fig.12).
Type 2 Obverse: Four fingers, turned-down ribbon ends (fig.4), finger spur, notched bottom banner end (fig.8).
Type 2L Reverse: No berry (fig.10), rounded double back feathers (fig.11).
No Assigned Type Reverse: No berry, split-tail back feathers (fig.13).