Much like its counterpart in the United States, the British government attempted to distribute "trade dollars" during the late 19th century in order to increase the use of its currency abroad. Even though the British Gold Sovereign was widely considered an international currency, and influenced the standards for other countries' respective gold coins, it wasn't necessarily directly convertible to local forms of money in other parts of the world. This is the problem that trade dollars sought to resolve.
In an auction held about two weeks ago, one of these British Gold Trade Dollars shattered the previous all-time high price realized at an auction for any coin of the same type.
A gorgeous proof example of an 1896B Gold British Trade Dollar that had been certified PF64 by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) came to the auction block for the first time in more than 30 years. It was last sold in October of 1984.
The last record-setting British Gold Trade Dollar was sold in Hong Kong during August of last year. The 1902B proof issue, graded PR64 Deep Cameo by PCGS, realized over £150,000, or better than $200,000. In addition to having a marginally better condition than this most recent Gold Trade Dollar sold by virtue of its DCAM designation, the 1902B Gold Trade Dollar also had the advantage of a special pedigree: the Johanna Austin Collection.
This time around, when another trade dollar was sold at auction only a year after its predecessor in Hong Kong, the coin realized £220,000—or more than $340,000. The coin features an image of Lady Britannia with a ship in the background. The outer rim is very ornate, combining a traditional Greek meander pattern with an inner beading pattern and a row of denticles on the outside. (Most coins only use one of these devices, let alone two or three.)
Everett has been the head content writer and market analyst at Gainesville Coins since 2013. He has a background in History and is deeply interested in how gold and silver have historically fit into the financial system.