The Philadelphia Mint struck Proof Trade Dollars (Buy on eBay) for each year the coins were issued for circulation. The production of proofs also continued for several years after the last circulation strikes, creating a number of Proof-only issues.
During the circulation strike years from 1873 to 1878, Proof coin production ranged from a low of 600 to a high of 1,150 pieces. These Proofs were primarily distributed within Silver Proof Sets issued by the United States Mint, although they were also available individually. The Proof Trade Dollars were unpopular with most numismatists. Many pieces acquired within the Silver Proof Sets were spent into circulation, and following demonetization some were even sold for less than face value. These factors resulted in poor preservation and survivability, leaving very few problem-free or high-grade specimens.
Collectors were much more likely to retain the Proof Trade Dollars struck from 1879 to 1883, following the conclusion of production for circulation. During this period, mintages ranged from a low of 960 to a high of 1,987 pieces. Due to the lack of circulation strikes, these mintages appeared enticingly low. The desirability of these Proof-only issues is now mostly offset by the higher survival rate and greater availability.
In 1884 and 1885, Proof-only issues were struck in extremely small numbers under clandestine circumstances. The existence of these pieces was not known until many years after their creation and both dates remain highly desirable rarities.
1873-1885 Proof Trade Dollar Mintages