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 resumed: The Carson City Mint had not struck trade dollars since April 1876. For a time in June 1877 trade dollars Were again minted. The Territorial Enterprise, published in Virginia City, Nevada, reported on June 29, 1877:
"The work of coining trade dollars will be briskly resumed at the Carson Mint July l. The 'trades' are not for circulation here. They will be shipped to San Francisco, thence to China. Our 'people would not object to the big dollars just now, yet if they could get plenty of half dollars they will try to worry along."
By the end of August some 531,000 pieces had been struck at Carson City, arid many pieces had found their way into circulation. On September 27, 1877 the Territorial Enterprise noted:
"The shoe dealers in this city have all struck against the trade dollar. They all put up cards last evening containing the announcement: 'Trade Dollars Not Taken.' At some of the shoe stores they do not bother with them at all, while at others they are taken at 90 cents. Of late the 'trades' have been circulating to a considerable extent. It is supposed that the brokers were scattering them abroad for the purpose of coming down on them presently and buying them at a discount;"
Coinage details: Coinage was actually resumed in June 1877 (not July, as the first newspaper notice above implies), when 221,000 were struck. In July 188,000 trade dollars were made, followed by 122,000 in August, then a hiatus until December, when just 3,000 Were made. By year's end the total was 534,000 coins.
Melting: On July 19, 1878 some 44,148 undistributed trade dollars were melted. While it is believed that most of these were of the 1878-CC issue, most likely others, perhaps under 10,000, were of the 1877-CC production.
Circulated grades: In grades from VF-20 to AU-58 the 1877-CC is classed as being scarce. Probably no more than 400 to 800 exist. However, the number of trade dollar specialists does not approach this figure, and the result is that specimens are very moderately priced on the market. Chopmarked coins are scarce, but exist in slightly larger quantities than unchopmarked specimens.
Mint State grades: In MS-65 grade the 1877-CC is a member of that "rarest of the rare" league that includes 1873-CC, 1874-CC, 1874-S, 1875-S/CC, and 1876-CC; perhaps none exist at this level. Sooner or later, this six-way "none exist" tie will be broken, but still an MS-65 specimen of any of these will be a show-stopper.
In MS-64 grade the 1877-CC exists to the extent of just 5 to 10 coins, and in MS-63 only about 15 to 25 exist. By any measure, the 1877-CC is a rarity in any upper level of Mint State. Only at the MS-60 to 62 level do coins come on the market with any consistency, and even in this range only about 100 to 160 are known. The John M. Willem reference collection coin was Mint State, but lightly struck.
Mint State coins are sometimes seen with a "greasy" rather than a deeply frosty lustre. Past market prices for high-grade 1877-CC trade dollars, like those for 1873-CC and 1876-CC (to mention just two other examples), have been highly theoretical, with few transactions taking place. When reviewing the manuscript of the present book, Bruce Amspacher noted that the market price for an MS-65 1877-CC is said to have been $16,500 in 1990, but that it dropped to just $9,500 in 1991 (see following table). Writing on August 20, 1992, he stated: ''I'm still in at $16,500, let alone $9,500." This points out that theoretical market prices are one thing-even at peaks in the price cycle-but the actual availability of coins may be another thing entirely.
Willem's comments: John M. Willem, pioneer researcher in the trade dollar field, wrote this about the 1877-CC:
The 1877-CC is also difficult to secure, although the number minted is quite large. Its relative rarity is due to the fact that all but 3,000 of the Carson City trade dollars were minted in June, July, and August of that year, and all of these coins were destined for shipment abroad. The 3,000 minted in December probably remained in the United States along with 97,000 minted at Carson City in January and February of 1878. It is easier for a collector to find the 1877-CC trade dollar with a chopmark than it is to find an unmarked one. All of the Carson City Mint trade dollars are difficult to find in any condition, particularly Uncirculated.
OBVERSE TYPE II, RIBBON ENDS POINT DOWN, 1876-1885
REVERSE TYPE II: NO BERRY BELOW CLAW, 1875-1885
1. Date repunched. Medium CC. 18 touching: Breen-5817. Mintmark 1.1 mm high; .8 mm spacing between C's. With minor doubling on the reverse; date numerals heavy, 1 and 8 touch. "Heavy Date."
2. Tall CC. 18 touching: Breen-5815. Mintmark 1.2 mm high; .5 mm spacing between C's. Some reverse letters filled; date numerals heavy, 1 and 8 touch. "Heavy Date." Rare. Usually seen in lower grades.
3. Tall CC. 18 free: Breen-5816. Mintmark 1.17 mm high; .5 mm spacing between C's. Date numerals heavy, 1 and 8 apart. Usually seen in lower grades.
4. Very High Date, Tall CC, 18 free: Date high and very close to base of Liberty. Tip of 1 in date is only .3 mm below base of Liberty (in comparison to about 1.0 mm for a typical "centered date" issue (as most 1877-CCs are). Date numerals heavy, 1 and 8 apart. Mintmark 1.2 mm high; .5 mm spacing between C's. Discovery specimen, VF-20, shown to the author by Harry E. Smith.
Apparently, very rare; or, at least, quite overlooked previously.
One 1877-CC reverse, with first C in mintmark low, was reused for 1878-CC.
Some have the anomalous reverse Type IIa, with large period after GRAINS (much larger than the comma on the normal II); rightmost leaf tip is pointed.
Dies prepared: (Quantity of dies sent on December 4, 1876. No reverses were included.) Obverse: 6; Reverse: Unknown quantity left over from 1876.
Circulation strike mintage: 534,000. Delivery figures by month: January-May: none; June: 221,000; July: 188,000; August: 122,000; September-November: none; December: 3,000. This averages about 89,000 per die-pair. Most of the June-August coins were exported.
Estimated quantity melted: Some, probably fewer than 10,000, melted at the Carson City Mint on July 19, 1878 as part of the destruction of 44, 148 coins, most of which were 1878-CC.
Characteristics of striking: Usually seen from average to well struck.
Known hoards of Mint State coins: In the 1970s World-Wide Coin Investments dispersed a group of about 10 coins.
Rarity with original Chinese chopmark(s): Scarce.
The 1877-CC is scarce in all grades and is quite rare in Mint State.