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Trade Dollars

By the mid-nineteenth century, United States merchants were seeking to expand trade with the Orient. Because the accepted unit of trade in China consisted of silver bullion and coin, U.S. merchants had to purchase Mexican Eight Reales and pay a premium to do so. As political pressure mounted to find a remedy for the problem, Congress passed legislation authorizing the minting of the Trade Dollar. It became the first (and only) dollar to be struck from 27.22 grams of an alloy comprised of .900 silver and .100 copper that had an Actual Silver Weight (ASW) of .7874 ounces of pure silver. A total of 36 million Trade Dollars were minted from 1873 until 1885 at the Philadelphia, San Francisco and Carson City Mints. Because of their high silver content, many of them were melted overseas. Because of its limited circulation in the United States, in 1876 Congress demonetized the Trade Dollar, the first time a United States dollar coin had ever been demonetized.

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