Good book on Trade Dollars

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by calcol, Oct 18, 2020.

  1. calcol

    calcol Supporter! Supporter

    Just finished reading “The United States Trade Dollar” by John Willem. I think this is the only book devoted exclusively to the trade dollar. It was originally published in the 60’s and was last reprinted in 1983.

    I enjoyed and highly recommend the book if you’re interested in trade dollars. However, be aware that the book concentrates mostly on the politics and history of the trade dollar and its times and very little on technical numismatics of the coin.

    The trade dollar was developed in the 1870’s to promote foreign distribution of the growing U.S. silver supply … most of it produced in Nevada. The main target was China. The silver producers had a lot of political influence in those days. And endorsed the concept until they found a better political solution described below. So, in 1873, production began, and a lot were exported. However, the trade dollar had to establish market share in China, where the Spanish and then Mexican “dollar” had dominated for a couple of centuries. It was slow going … too slow for the silver barons. They had Congress pass laws requiring the Treasury to drop the trade dollar and make huge annual purchases of silver, most of it coined into Morgan, then Peace, dollars. Far more were coined than needed in commerce. So, they set in vaults well into the twentieth century. Except for a few proofs, the last year of the trade dollar was 1878 … the first year of the Morgan dollar.

    All of the above and more is covered in detail in Willem’s book. He describes both the U.S. and global aspects including contemporaneous development of trade dollars by other nations. Quiz: What was the first coin or token to bear the designation “DOLLAR”? It was not a U.S. coin.

    Although there is data on mintages and major varieties in the book, there are not many images, and those are of poor quality. There is hardly any coverage of grading. There are no detailed die studies comparable to VAM for Morgan and Peace dollars.

    If you’re into trade dollars, you’ve gotta have this book. It’s still readily available, primarily as the Durst reprint, which is of lower production quality than the earlier printings.

    Publius2 likes this.
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  3. ksparrow

    ksparrow Coin Hoarder

    Thanks for the recommendation. I don't own a copy as yet, I'm holding out for the definitive Trade Dollar reference, which Joe Kirchgesser has been working on for a number of years now. Not sure when that will be published, hope I'm still breathing and sound mind. I think R. Julian's chapter on the history of Trade Dollars in Bowers' silver dollar reference vol. 1 is excellent. There have also been a lot of articles on varieties in the Gobrecht Journal.
    calcol likes this.
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