HomeUS CoinsTwenty-Cent Piece, 1875-1878 | CoinWeek

Twenty-Cent Piece, 1875-1878 | CoinWeek

1877 Twenty-Cent Piece graded NGC PF65UCAM. Image: Heritage Auctions (visit www.ha.com).
1877 Twenty-Cent Piece graded NGC PF65UCAM. Image: Heritage Auctions (visit www.ha.com).

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

The Twenty-Cent Piece (also called a Twenty-Cent Coin) had one of the shortest production runs and lowest mintages in U.S. coin history. The United States Mint produced the coin for four years, from 1875 through 1878, but only released it into circulation in 1875 and 1876. Over the course of the denominations final two years, the Mint produced a total of 1,100 Proofs, which it sold to collectors.

The Twenty-Cent Piece was struck at the Philadelphia Mint, the Carson City Mint, and the San Francisco Mint. In 1875, anticipating strong export demand, San Francisco produced 1,155,000 pieces. That same year, Carson City struck 133,290 Twenty-Cent Pieces, and Philadelphia struck 38,500. Fortunately for collectors, a sufficient number of 1875-S coins survive in grades XF to Mint State, making the issue an affordable type coin.

The 1876-CC Twenty-Cent Piece, by contrast, had nearly its entire 10,000 pieces mintage melted down before its release. Today, experts estimate that fewer than 20 examples of this date survive.

Why Was the Twenty-Cent Piece Struck? Wasn’t the Quarter Sufficient?

Even though proposals to mint the denomination had been made in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it wasn’t until after the Coinage Act of 1873 put an end to the coining of silver upon demand that the Mint decided to support the creation of a Twenty-Cent Piece. In 1874, Congress authorized production of a Twenty-Cent coin at the urging of the newly elected Nevada Senator John Percival Jones (R). While the Nevada silver mining companies stood to gain from the production of a new silver coin type, Jones argued that the Twenty-Cent Piece would compete with European silver coins struck to the standard of the Latin Monetary Union (LMU) in foreign trade.

Congress saw another potential benefit in the Twenty-Cent Piece. With the elimination of the half dime in 1873, and the cent and five-cent nickel coins being struck only at the Philadelphia Mint, there was a shortage of small change in the western states.

Unfortunately, the Mint’s execution of a Twenty-Cent Piece left much to be desired.

The coin was easily confused with the quarters of the era, being similar in size to the quarter and having the same Liberty Seated motif on the front with a similar eagle design on the back – even though patterns were created by Chief Engraver William Barber at the behest of Mint Director Henry Linderman. The Twenty-Cent Piece did have plain edges as opposed to the quarter dollar’s reeded edges, but this is a minor detail that could have easily gone unnoticed as it is not uncommon for the reeding on quarters to wear down after years of circulation.

For these reasons, the Twenty-Cent Piece failed to gain acceptance, and its mintage for general circulation ceased only two years after it began.

In-Depth Twenty-Cent Piece Date Analysis by CoinWeek Notes

1878 Twenty-Cent Piece. Image: Heritage Auctions.
1878 Twenty-Cent Piece. Image: Heritage Auctions.

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Coin Specifications

Twenty-Cent Piece
Years Of Issue: 1875-78
Mintage (Circulation): High: 1,155,000 (1875-S); Low: 106,000 (1876-CC)
Mintage (Proof): High: 1,200 (1875); Low: 510 (1877)
Alloy: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: 5.0 g
Diameter: 22.0 mm
Edge: Plain
OBV Designer: William Barber
REV Designer: William Barber


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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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  1. Looking back, it’s quite stunning how much the “double-dime debacle” presaged the Anthony dollar’s failure a century later. If the 20¢ coin had been created to replace the quarter instead of co-circulating, it would have given the US a fully-decimal set of minor denominations. But as with the SBA dollar not only did its design cause confusion, in addition no attempt was made to phase out the competing denomination.


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