By Dr. Richard S. Appel – UniqueRareCoins.com ……
From its inception, the silver 20-cent coin was one of the most poorly conceived, ill-received and unpopular coins produced by the United States Mint. Its great similarity in design and size with the circulating 25-cent coin was confusing to many Americans. The 20-cent piece was allegedly introduced to facilitate making change for small purchases. A practice called “shortchanging” was apparently widespread at the time; a customer offering a quarter dollar to a shopkeeper to pay for a 10- or 15-cent item would often receive less than he should in change.
The coining of 20-cent pieces was discussed by our government as early as 1791 when the coin was referred to as a “double disme”, and again in 1806. However, it was not until the passing of the Coinage Act of March 3, 1875 that the coin was authorized. Chief Engraver William Barber designed the coin.
Twenty-cent pieces for general circulation were only made in 1875 and 1876.
1875 witnessed coins produced at the Philadelphia, San Francisco and Carson City Mints. 1876 examples were only issued from the Philadelphia and Carson City facilities. Proof collector specimens were coined at the Philadelphia Mint in those years, and in 1877 and 1878 for inclusion in proof sets. Importantly, 12 proof coins were also coined in 1875 bearing a San Francisco “S” mint-mark, and only about a half dozen are known to exist; these are major rarities and are seldom seen.
Despite the short life of this denomination, and given the public’s distaste for the coin, the mintages for most of the issues were quite low. The 1875-S is the most common with a mintage of 1,155,000. In 1875 and 1876 the Philadelphia Mint only produced 38,500 and 14,000 coins respectively.
While the 1875-CC has a mintage of 133,290, the 1876 Carson City emission is a great rarity. Despite its original mintage of 10,000 examples, the vast majority were melted at the Mint. Today, possibly 20 examples are extant, and they trade in the $250,000 to $500,000 range depending upon quality.
Other than the 1875-S proof issue, the other proof dates have mintages between 510 and 1,500 coins. Both mint state and proof 20-cent coins have always been very desirable to collectors and investors alike due to their unusual denomination, short period of issuance and rich history.
In July 1876, a bill was introduced to discontinue the denomination. It became effective in May 1878, at which time the Mints were instructed to melt all 20-cent coins they had on hand. This action made the 1876 Carson City issue the rarity it is because their other fellows met their fate in the melting pot.
I believe 20-cent pieces are quite attractive and desirable, possessing a wonderful story. It is an easily collectable series in either mint-state or proof condition. That is, unless one has the desire to possess the coveted 1875-S proof or 1876-CC mint state examples.
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Dr. Richard S. Appel is the principal for his company UniqueRareCoins.com, working as a rare coin broker or consultant for his clients. Dr. Appel uses his 50 years of experience as a former rare coin dealer to obtain the choicest coins offered in the wholesale market, and at the lowest dealer prices. Or, if his client is selling, he strives for the highest possible sale prices. Those he works for find him indispensable. Dr. Appel can be reached at 1-800-782-2646 or [email protected].