Researcher Dan Owens submitted these notes on the 1859-S coinage and trade with China and Japan. Thanks! -Editor
1859-S Liberty Seated Coinage; Miscellaneous Research Passages.
In 1859-1860, silver was received on deposit at the San Francisco Branch Mint if it was to be manufactured into refined bars or Seated dollars. If its intended purpose was for other coins it was
purchased. This was reflected in the Register of Silver Bullion Deposits under the category of remarks.
The Sea Serpent
To give the reader a better glimpse of the treasure trade with China, I took a detailed look at the sailing ship Sea Serpent which cleared San Francisco on February 21st, 1859, with a
significant amount of treasure bound for Hong Kong via Honolulu. A number of Chinese and American commission merchants had shipments below her decks consisting of gold bars, Mexican dollars, gold
coin and dust, silver bars and surprisingly $10,000 in U.S. silver coin consigned to banker B. Davidson.
Perhaps he was testing the waters so to speak, with U.S. silver dollars or more than likely he was trying to unload excess silver half dollars. On her previous voyage to Hong Kong the Sea Serpent
returned with goods like tea, sugar and rice.
The Onward and the Page carried 68,000 Seated Half Dollars to Japan
Two notable examples of Seated half dollars being shipped to the Orient include the Clipper barque Onward which sailed from San Francisco on September 3rd, 1859, for Japan with $22,000 in
American half dollars (44,000 pieces) and the schooner Page which sailed on the 5th for Hakodadi, Japan with $12,000 or 24,000 American half dollars.
Hakodadi, Japan was the site of the Custom House, where American silver coins were exchanged for Japanese silver coins which in turn were used by the American merchants directly in their trade
I expanded my search to include the years 1860 and 1861 and found strong evidence of their continued appearance in Japan. Not surprisingly, these pieces always seemed to trade at a discount or at
times were only accepted for harbor dues and duties.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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