General Comments

The 1873-S dollar has been the subject of much discussion and speculation. No confirmed example is known. Reference 4 contains an excellent write-up on the coin, including speculation that it both does and does not exist.

An argument for the existence of this date, at least in 1873, is based on a letter found in the National Archives by Harry X. Boosel, Mr. 1873 (see reference 14). This letter, from the Superintendent of the Branch Mint at San Francisco to the Director of the Mint in Philadelphia, states that one 1873-S dollar coin was sent to the U. S. Assay Office. The letter is dated March 5, 1873, 4 weeks prior to the effective date of the legislation which created the trade dollar, precluding the possibility that the coin was actually a trade dollar.

An opposing possibility, posed by Tom DeLorey and documented in Reference 4, speculates that the 700 reported 1873-S dollars may have all been left-over coins dated 1872-S. This possibility would identify the coin sent to the Assay Office as an example of the 1872-S. This could be the most plausible explanation of why no 1873-S dollar examples have surfaced in over 140 years.

Mintage 700
Proof mintage None
Mintage ranking 4th
Finest known Unknown
Known obverse dies Unknown
Known reverse dies Unknown
Known die marriages Unknown
Most common die marriage Unknown
Rarest die marriage Unknown
Additional information and theories are reported in an article that appeared in the January 27, 2017 issue of Coin World. This article is #26 in our list of references.

If one believes that the 700 coins recorded as minted in 1873 were indeed dated 1873, then the date existed, at least in early 1873. The obverse and reverse dies used are unknown, but we can speculate. The obverse would be the closed 3 logotype used for all known 1873 and 1873-CC dies. An 1873 is pictured below.

Possible 1873 obverse

Based on our analysis of other years its likely that the reverse of 1872-S, pictured below, would have been carried over to 1873, although less data exists to verify this practice for the San Francisco mint than for the other mints.

Possible 1873-S reverse

The question becomes whether all were melted, as currently assumed. Based on our understanding of mint practices in the 19th century, particularly the notable under-the-table activities undertaken to provide serious collectors of that era with examples of rare dates, its a stretch to assume that every example of the 1873-S dollar was destroyed. The melting of every representative of a mintage of 700 is unlikely at best. If the 700 reported coins actually existed, then its very probable that one or more is still out there somewhere. Well leave it at that. Coin hunters may the Force be with you!

Photo credits:

Obverse full photo:   1873 PCGS MS65, ex. Gene Gardner, from the Heritage archives.
Reverse full photo:   1872-S NGC MS63, ex. Gene Gardner, from the Heritage archives.

Copyright 2015-2021, by Dick Osburn and Brian Cushing, All rights reserved.