Q. David Bowers:
The following narrative, with minor editing, is from my "Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia" (Wolfeboro, NH: Bowers and Merena Galleries, Inc., 1993).
Production notes: Mintage of the 1874-CC trade dollar got off to a slow start, with just 9,600 pieces struck in January. Monthly production figures (given in the Summary of Characteristics) stayed below the 100,000 mark until August, when 145,500 were made. The peak of production was in December, when some 240,000 pieces left the press. When figures were totaled, 1,373,200 were struck for the year.
Most of the mintage went to China, where, apparently, many were saved from the melting pot and, instead, were subjected to the imprint of chop-markers. 1874-CC trade dollars were a familiar sight in Oriental commerce as late as the 1940s (as were most other trade dollar varieties of relatively high mintage).
Circulated grades: In worn grades the 1874-CC is scarce, but the dedicated collector will experience no difficulty in readily locating a nice example. However, in a letter to me in 1992, Michael D. Michel stated that he had surveyed auction appearances over the preceding five years, and encountered only one 1874-CC trade dollar in AU grade. Presumably, most pieces that changed hands did so outside of the auction room.
Chopmarked 1874-CC dollars are aplenty and always have been. The issue ranks as the most available of all chopmarked Carson City trade dollars and fourth most available of all chop marked trade dollars.
Mint State grades: The 1874-CC is one of the rarest of all trade dollars in high Mint State grades (MS-64 or better); very few are known to exist. This because of the familiar syndrome: collectors did not save mintmarks, trade dollars were not in favor with numismatists, and, in any event, most coins were exported. I have never seen an MS-65 coin, and I am not certain that one exists as this level. MS-64 examples are rarities, and an estimated 10 to 20 survive.
In MS-63 the 1874-CC is quite rare; I estimate that about 30 to 50 exist. At the MS-60 to 62 level probably about 150 to 250 survive, including an estimated 15 from a hoard owned by World-Wide Coin Investments in the 1970s. At all Mint State levels.
coins often have somewhat satiny, almost "greasy" lustre.
OBVERSE TYPE I: RIBBON ENDS POINT LEFT, 1873-1876
REVERSE TYPE I: BERRY BELOW CLAW, 1873-1876
Circulation strikes: Varieties of mintmark sizes have been chronicled as follows:
1. Micro cc: Breen-5786. Mintmark. 74 mm high; .75 mm spacing between C's. Rare.
2. Minute CC: Mintmark .84 mm high; .4 mm spacing between C's.
3. Minute CC: Mintmark .9 mm high; .75 mm spacing between C's.
4. Medium CC: Mintmark 1.1 mm high; .55 mm spacing between C's. Dot on 8 of date on obverse.
5. Medium CC: Mintmark 1.1 mm high; .6 mm spacing between C's. Slight doubled die on reverse.
6. Tall CC: Mintmark 1.17 mm high; .6 mm spacing between C's.
Dies prepared: Obverse: 17+; Reverse: 17+. According to R.W. Julian, 10 dies (five pairs?) were shipped before April, six more pairs on June 19th, and six additional pairs on July 17th. Other quantities and shipment dates are unknown. (The 18 pairs shipped on November 12, 1874 were probably for 1875-CC.)
Circulation strike mintage: 1,373,200. Delivery figures by month: January: 9,600; February: 38,100; March: 52,500; April: 48,500; May: 65,500; June: 71,000; July: 76,500; August: 145,500; September: 209,000; October: 201,000; November: 216,000; December: 240,000. If 17 die pairs made the total, this averages to 80,776 per die-pair; a big improvement over 1873-CC, consistent with later CC dates.
Characteristics of striking: Some are lightly or irregularly struck in areas, particularly on the eagle's sinister leg and claws and at the top of the eagle's dexter wing. "Notorious for weakly struck and oddly struck examples. Usually has subdued lustre similar to the New Orleans Mint Morgan dollars of 1895-97" - Bruce Amspacher.
Known hoards of Mint State coins: In the 1970s World-Wide Coin Investments distributed a group of about 15 pieces.
Rarity with original Chinese chopmark(s): The 1874-CC is the most plentiful Carson City Mint chopmarked trade dollar, and fourth most common of all chopmarked trade dollars.
The 1874-CC is rare in high Mint State grades. Most were shipped to the China.