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.
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 |
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
Possible 1873 obverse
Based on our analysis of other years it’s 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, it’s 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 it’s very probable that one or more
is still out there somewhere. We’ll leave it at that. Coin hunters – may the Force be with you!
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.