The Trade Dollar was produced for circulation from 1873 to 1878 with the purpose of facilitating export trade with Asia. The series includes some unusual features amongst American coinage, including an initial legal tender limit for payments of five dollars and the later revocation of legal tender status. For present day collectors, the coins can be challenging to locate in uncirculated condition and several absolute rarities exist.
The obverse design of the coins features a modified rendition of seated Liberty. She holds in one hand an olive branch, which is extended towards the sea, while her other hand holds a scroll inscribed "Liberty". She is seated upon bales of merchandise and cotton with the words "In God We Trust" at the base.
On the reverse is a somewhat familiar rendition of the bald eagle, with an olive branch in one talon and three arrows in the other. Inscriptions indicate "United States of America", "420 Grains 900 Fine", and "Trade Dollar". A scroll placed above the eagle reads "E Pluribus Unum".
During the brief run, the coins were minted at Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Carson City. For the latter two mints, a mint mark is placed on the reverse of the coin beneath the eagle.
Although the Trade Dollars ceased to be struck for circulation in 1878, for several additional years, the Philadelphia Mint continued to produce proof versions of the coin for collectors. This culminated with the extremely rare issues of 1884 and 1885, which had mintages of just 10 and 5, respectively.