The United States Trade Dollar is a silver dollar coin that was issued by the United States Mint and minted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Carson City, and San Francisco from 1873 to 1885. Business strikes ended in 1878. The coin was designed by William Barber, the mint's chief engraver. More trade dollars were minted in San Francisco than Carson City and Philadelphia combined. San Francisco was closest both to the source of the silver as well as the ultimate destination of the coins, China. Many Trade Dollars have what are called "chop marks" on them. The Chinese merchants would stamp the coins as a way to check their authenticity and to add their advertising logo.
The United States Congress authorized the U.S. Mint to create a trade dollar to improve trade with the Orient, China in particular. Prior to that, the Mexican peso had been the primary silver coin used in trading with China. In fact, the eagle on the trade dollar's reverse looks quite similar to the peso's. The coin was minted of 420 grains (27 g) of silver with a fineness of 900 (90 %), about 8 grains (520 mg) more than the domestic silver dollar of the time, and 4 more than the peso. However, the peso was 903 silver.
Collectors are warned that recently a large number of U.S. trade dollars, of various quality have been made in China. Purchasing from known dealers or buying sealed and certified coins may be necessary to avoid these fakes.
2,736,000 Japanese coins were minted, the vast majority in 1876-77. Because of their high bullion value they were withdrawn from use and the majority were counterstamped with the character "gin" (Japanese for "silver"). The Osaka mint placed the mark on the left side of the reverse, the Tokyo mint on the right. The coins were then released for use outside Japan.
With the extension of British trading interest's in the East, especially after the founding of Singapore in 1819 and Hong Kong in 1842, it became necessary to produce a special Dollar so as to remove the reliance of a British Colony upon the various foreign coins then in circulation. The Picture is a Trade Dollar from the reign of Victoria. It is a 1900 B mint.
China Trade, Silver Dollars were a direct result of the Opium Wars (1839-1843, 1856-1860), which began when China tried to stop Britain from selling opium to its citizens. The loser, China, had to open up a number of ports to British trade and residence, and cede Hong Kong to Britain. In the decades that followed, merchants and adventurers flocked to these areas, and international trade flourished. Foreign banks were established, and large silver coins from all over the world began arriving to pay for tea, silk, and Chinese porcelain to be shipped abroad. These .900 fine silver trade dollars were then circulated throughout China, where they were readily accepted as a medium of exchange. The British Trade Dollars, minted exclusively for use in the Far East, depict Britannia standing on shore, holding a trident in one hand and balancing a British shield in the other, with a merchant ship under full sail in the background. On the reverse is an arabesque design with the Chinese symbol for longevity in the center, and the denomination in two languages— Chinese and Jawi Malay.
The British Trade Dollar was minted from 1895, with the last being produced in 1935. Those with the mint mark "B" were produced at the Bombay mint; others, marked "C", were struck in Calcutta. The mint mark "C" can be found in the ground between the left foot of Britannia and the base of the shield, while the mint mark "B" is located in the centre prong of the trident. The 1921-B dollar was struck but never released for circulation, and only a limited number of 1934-B and 1935-B coins were released. Certain dates are found with a new date being over-struck on another; these include 1897-B over 1896-B, 1900-B over 1894-B, 1901-B over 1900-B, 1909-B over 1908-B, 1904-B over 1898-B, 1903-B over 1902-B, 1908-B over 1903-B, 1904-B over 1903-B, 1929-B over 1901-B, 1908-B over 1907-B, and 1910-B over 1900-B. The British Trade Dollar was demonetized on August 1, 1937. * See Britischer Handelsdollar on the German Wikipedia.