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1875-S Twenty-Cent Piece Proof : A Collector’s Guide

1875-S Proof Twenty-Cent Piece. Image: Goldberg Auctioneers.
1875-S Proof Twenty-Cent Piece. Image: Goldberg Auctioneers.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
 

The 1875-S Proof Liberty Seated Twenty-Cent piece is an enigmatic issue from the San Francisco Mint. Called a Branch Mint Proof, 12 supposedly were struck but only five are known. Two were attributed as Branch Mint Proofs after 1975.

Writer Don Taxay speculated that the coins were likely the first twenty-cent pieces struck at the San Francisco Mint, sometime between June 1 and June 3, 1875.

According to R.B. White, who wrote a piece on the die diagnostics of the 1875-S Proof in the March 1974 issue of The Numismatist, the coin has “broad flat rims” measuring 0.9 mm wide, “clearly defined denticles, polished fields, sharp delineation of the devices and square edges with partial wire extrusion.” White also points to the presence of die polish lines in the shield below Liberty and breaks in the serifs of T and S on CENTS. Numismatist Walter Breen echoes these diagnostics but notes that the dies were retained to produce business strikes.

1875-S Proof Twenty-Cent Piece diagnostics. Left: three horizontal die polish lines in the shield below LIBERTY. Right: Left serif of T and S broken off. Image: Goldberg Auctioneers / CoinWeek.
1875-S Proof Twenty-Cent Piece Diagnostics. Left: Three horizontal die polish lines in the shield below LIBERTY. Right: The left serif of T and S is broken off. Image: Goldberg Auctioneers / CoinWeek.

We have gathered several data points on the appearances of the 1875-S Proof but cannot fashion a precise list of the five known coins at the present time.

  • PCGS PR64CAM: American Numismatic Rarities, January 2004, Lot 1403 – $103,500.
  • PCGS PR63CAM:
  • PCGS PR63: Ira S. Reed to Benson, June 7, 1944 – $20; “The Benson II Collection”, Goldberg Auctioneers, February 19, 2002, Lot 677 – $32,200.
  • NGC PF63:
  • NGC PF63:
  • PCGS PR62:
  • B. Max Mehl sold to Gaylord, 1931
  • Cleaned with damage in the fields
  • Discovered in the 1970s.
  • One example was offered for sale in September 1980 Numismatist by Numismatics, Ltd. of Beverly Hills for $23,500.

Design

Obverse:

Liberty is seated; she is facing to the left. She holds a rod in her left hand. Atop the rod is a pileus, or freedman’s cap. Her left hand holds the corner of the federal shield. A ribbon atop the shield displays the word LIBERTY. Thirteen six-pointed stars partially encircle the design. The date appears at the bottom. Denticles border a raised rim.

Reverse:

An eagle stands with its wings outstretched, clutching an olive branch and a bundle of three arrows in its talons. This is the same design that appears on the United States Trade Dollar. Encircling the design is the text UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and TWENTY CENTS. The two inscriptions are bookended by six-pointed stars. The mintmark “S” appears above the Y of TWENTY, below the crossing of the plant stem and arrow fletching.

Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue:  1875
Denomination: Twenty Cents (USD)
Mint Mark: S (San Francisco)
Mintage: 12
Alloy: .900 Silver, .100 Copper
Weight: 5.00 g
Diameter: 22.00 mm
Edge: Plain
OBV Designer: William Barber
REV Designer: William Barber
Quality:  Proof

 

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Sources

Breen, Walter. Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. 1988.

White, R. B. “The 1875-S Twenty Cent Branch Mint Proof”, The Numismatist. American Numismatic Association. March 1974.

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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