US Coins

The market for once-shunned chop-marked Trade dollars

Regarding damage on coins, few post-striking impairments are more interesting than counterstamps and chop marks.

Chop marks are most often seen on Trade dollars while counterstamps are most often placed on a coin by a merchant as a form of advertising. The presence of a counterstamp or intriguing chop marks can sometimes increase the value of a coin by adding historical interest.

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Heritage’s auction held during the February Long Beach Expo and a pre-expo auction by Ira and Larry Goldberg Auctioneers both featured a few great examples of coins where individuals intentionally stamped the surfaces to convey messages or test value. 

Here is one of three we profile in this Market Analysis:

The Coin

1875-CC Trade Dollar, Extremely Fine 40, Obverse and Reverse Chop Marks

The Price


The Story

Trade dollars were minted by the United States between 1873 and 1878 to serve as a sort of international trade coin, primarily for use in Asia. Largely due to fluctuations in the value of silver, it was not a particularly successful experiment and the Trade dollar series concluded with Proof-only issues minted for collectors dated 1879 through 1885. 

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Trade dollars circulated throughout China — especially the southern part — and as silver moved down in price, the value of the Trade dollar throughout Asia also dropped. Asian merchants would punch “chop marks” in the coin’s surface to both identify it and to test its purity. In 2003 PCGS began certifying Trade dollars with chop marks, and today these once shunned Trade dollars are valued by collectors and even included in special grading service Registry Sets. 

Trade dollar coinTrade dollar: The Trade dollar is the only case in U.S. numismatic history where a coin of the realm has been demonetized, although that was changed in 1982 when the coin again became legal tender. How much are Trade dollars worth?

At the Feb. 12 pre-Long Beach auction by the Goldbergs, the firm offered an 1875-CC Trade dollar graded Extremely Fine 40 by Professional Coin Grading Service with clean and clear chop marks on both sides that sold for $676. 

Keep Reading About Coins With Chop Marks and Counterstamps:

Draped Bust dollar counterstampWhen a Draped Bust dollar turned into an advertisement is no ordinary defacement: Merchants would often counterstamp coins in the 19th century with their business names to help promote their goods and services.

Massachussetts silver twopence counterstampDoes this 17th century silver coin have a chop mark or a counterstamp? Hard to tell: A 1662 Massachusetts Oak Tree twopence provides an interesting quandary: what is the difference between a chop mark and a counterstamp?

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