Featured An Introduction to the Twenty Cent Piece

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by johnmilton, Jul 27, 2019.

  1. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    Collector’s Note I have had an interest in the Twenty Cent Piece series since I was in high school. Back then I formed a set of the four made for circulation issues. Unfortunately, the two Proof only coins, the 1877 and 1878 were well beyond my financial means.

    As an adult my interests have continued. Recently I completed a set with the exception of the rare 1876-CC. These pieces were a product of “the silver lobby” which fought many political battles during the latter half of the 19th century. The best known products of those battles were the Morgan Silver Dollar and William Jennings Bryan’s three presidential campaigns.

    Among the six “odd denominations” that U.S. Mint System issued during the 19th century, the Twenty Cent Piece or double dime was the biggest failure. The half cent, which dated from the Coinage Act 1792, provided a bridge between the Spanish system of “bits,” which were worth 12 ½ cents, and the U.S. decimal system of coinage. The Silver Three Cent Piece provided a convenient way to purchase the new three cent postage stamps in the 1850s. The Two Cent and Nickel Three Cent Pieces supplied small change to the economy during the Civil War when there was a coin shortage caused by extensive hoarding.

    The quarter eagle or $2.50 was never popular, but it was included in the Coinage Act of 1792. It was made in limited quantities for most years until 1929. It was thought that the Three Dollar Gold Piece would facilitate making change during gold coin transactions, and replace the privately issued three dollar bank notes that were in circulation, but it never gained a following. Yet, none of those odd ball coins caused disruptions within the economy like the Twenty Cent Piece did.

    Sen John P. Jones.jpg

    The Twenty Cent piece was the brainchild of Nevada senator John Percival Jones. Jones couched his advocacy for the coin under the guise of consumer protection. During this period some goods were priced in “bits” or 12 ½ cents. This price was based upon the Spanish monetary system that divided the dollar into eight parts.

    Jones contended that a customer who paid for an item priced at one bit, with a quarter, usually received a dime in change. Jones argued that if there were a Twenty Cent Piece, the merchant would still give back a dime and the customer, not the businessman, would keep the extra 2 ½ cents. A better solution would have been to have expanded of the mintage of cents to the western branch mints, but logic was not the objective of this legislation. The real purpose was to expand the use of silver, which was poring out of western state mines in record quantities. Jones got his bill through Congress and President Ulysses Grant signed it into law on March 3, 1875.

    Mint officials toyed with the idea of using a liberty head as a design for the coin, but they ultimately decided to maintain the Liberty Seated design for all of the silver coin denominations. That probably contributed to the failure of the double dime. Designer William Barber fashioned a seated liberty for the obverse that was similar to the other silver coins except that the word “LIBERTY” was in raised instead of incuse letters. For the reverse Barber revived the upright standing eagle that he had introduced on the Trade Dollar. The other difference that Barber incorporated in his design was to give the coin a plain instead of a reeded edge.

    During the first year, 1875, the Carson City and San Francisco Mints struck the vast majority of the mintage since the reason for producing the coin had been mainly for use in the western states. The San Francisco mint produced 1,155,000 pieces followed by the Carson City mint which struck 133,290 double dimes. Philadelphia added a modest 36,910 coins plus a then healthy mintage (for the period) of 2,790 Proofs. San Francisco issued a dozen Proof or presentation strike coins, to mark the initiation of the double dime coinage.

    Soon after the Twenty Cent Piece entered commerce, confusion reigned. Consumers and businesses were constantly paying out quarters instead of the Twenty Cent Pieces and vice versa. Quite often consumers were losing five cents instead of gaining 2 ½ cents as the enabling legislation had promised. A few citizens resorted to punching in a “20” counterstamp on the double dimes to avoid confusion. In the modern era, history repeated itself when the government introduced the Susan B. Anthony Dollar coin in 1979. As it was in the 19th century, many consumers confused that coin to the quarter which resulted in its rapid rejection.

    1875-CC counter O.jpg

    By 1876 it was obvious that the double dime and the quarter could not circulate side by side. One of the two denominations had to go, and since the quarter had been in circulation since 1796, the Twenty Cent Piece began to pass into history.

    Records show that the Philadelphia Mint struck 14,640 Twenty Cent Pieces in 1876. An unknown number of those pieces were melted, which makes the coin a bit scarcer than that mintage would indicate. The Carson City Mint struck 10,000, 1876-CC double dimes, but very few of those coins were issued. Nearly all of them were melted, which made the 1876-CC Twenty Cent Piece the rarest coin in the series. The high mintage for the 1875-S double dime made the mintage of the coin unnecessary in 1876 for the West Coast.

    Although it was obvious that the Twenty Cent Piece had failed as a circulating coin, Congress did not vote to end to coinage of the double dime for two more years. That allowed the Philadelphia Mint to strike Proof double dimes for collectors in 1877 and ‘78. Those two issues, which are scarce and expensive, have long bedeviled budget minded collectors, who aspire to form a set of Twenty Cent Pieces.

    Today most collectors limit their interest in the Twenty Cent Piece to a single coin for a type set. Most often that single coin is an 1875-S double dime because it is by far the most common date and mint mark combination. The 1875-CC is the second most common Twenty Cent Piece. That coin’s popularity is enhanced because it is a product of the “romantic” Carson City Mint. The Philadelphia Mint pieces are scarce as indicated by their low mintages but under appreciated.

    Mintages, Meltings and Estimated Rarities

    During four years of production, the U.S. Mint System issued 1,355,000 Twenty Cent Pieces. That relatively low mintage alone would be enough to make the coin scarce, but over the years, over 70% of that output has been destroyed by the U.S. Government. Using the Mint Director’s Annual Reports as a reference, 963,841 Twenty Cent Pieces were melted from 1875 until, believe it or not, 1954. That leaves just 391,159 pieces that have not been officially destroyed. Of course, some of those pieces no longer exist because they have been melted by private concerns, lost or otherwise become unavailable to the collecting community.

    Recently, Lane J. Brunner and John M. Frost co-authored an excellent reference book, Double Dimes The United States Twenty-Cent Piece. This reference contains historical, die variety, rarity and other interesting information about these coins. I have used information from this reference for the following rarity estimates.

    The Business Strike Issues


    Mintage 36,910, Estimated number of survivors 4,500

    1875 Twenty Cent O.jpg 1875 Twenty Cent R.jpg

    The 1875 Philadelphia Mint Twenty Cent Piece is a scarce coin, but its scarcity is influenced by two competing factors. The mintage, which is just short of 37 thousand, makes it a scarce coin from the start. Most any 19th century U.S. coin that mintage would be scarce. Still the Twenty Cent Piece was not popular. It did not circulate very much in the East, and most of the survivors I have seen were in fairly high grade, usually choice VF or better. I believe that a large number of pieces were returned to the mint and melted soon after it became obvious that the double dime had failed. Therefore it not surprising that only about 12% of the original mintage exists today in all grades.

    1875-CC, Mintage 133,290, Estimated number of survivors 6,500

    1875-CC Twenty Cent O.jpg 1875-CC Twenty Cent R.jpg

    I am a bit surprised that the mintage for the 1875-CC double dime was not higher. Senator Jones was from Nevada, and it was his bill that resulted in the authorization for the coin. Still given the condition of many of the survivors, which are found in grades as low as Good, it is obvious that the double dime did enjoy some popularity in the West. The 1875-CC double dime is a somewhat scarce and popular coin, but finding one for your collection is not difficult if your search includes the Internet and the major coin shows.

    Many 1875-CC double dimes are weakly struck on the upper portion of the eagle’s left wing and the corresponding portion of the shield on the obverse in the area of the word “LIBERTY.” The word is not missing on the affected coins, but it is weaker than normal. If you are looking for a moderate challenge, look for an 1875-CC double dime that is fully struck.

    1875-S, Mintage 1,155,000, Estimated number of survivors 25,000

    1875S20centO.JPG 1875S20centR.JPG

    The 1875-S double dime is by far the most common date and mint mark combination in the series. The coin is available in all grades from Good to Mint State. The strike quality is quite good, and finding an attractive example in whatever grade you choose will not be not difficult. Had it not been for the 1875-S Twenty Cent Piece, this coin would have been a far scarcer and more expensive type coin.

    1876-P, Mintage 14,640, Estimated number of survivors 3,000

    1876 20 Ct MS O.jpg 1876 20 Ct MS R.jpg

    The 1876-P double dime is fairly scarce, but since collector interest is mostly limited to those who are looking to build a set of Twenty Cent Pieces, the prices are moderate. Most of the examples I have seen have at least VF or EF sharpness, and Mint State pieces can be found with some patience.

    To be continued in the next post

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  3. physics-fan3.14

    physics-fan3.14 You got any more of them.... prooflikes? Supporter

    Fantastic post! These are available in Prooflike condition, but so far they have eluded me.
  4. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    1876-CC, Mintage 10,000, Estimated number of survivors 19

    1876-CC 20c Large.jpg 1876-CC 20c Lg Shield.jpg 1876-CC Twenty Cent R.jpg

    This the rare Twenty Cent Piece. Almost the entire mintage was stored at the Carson City Mint, and never issued. Virtually all of the 1876-CC double dimes were melted in March of 1877 along with an unknown number of 1875-CC coins. Most of the survivors are in high grade although a couple of lower grade, problem pieces have cropped up at the major auctions.

    One might think that dishonest coin doctors have tried to fabricate a fake 1876-CC double dime by adding a “CC” mint mark to a Philadelphia Mint piece, but there is barrier to doing that. All of the known examples of the 1876-CC double dime have a doubled “LIBERTY” on the shield. That feature is simply too tough to fake on an altered piece. If you were to see a purported example without that feature, you will know immediately that it is a counterfeit.

    The Proof Issues

    1875-P, Proof Mintage 2,790, Estimated number of survivors 600

    1875 20 Cent O.jpg 1875 20 Cent R.jpg

    The reported Proof mintage of 2,790 pieces was quite high for this period of the 19th century. For example, the Proof mintage for the other silver pieces (dime, quarter, half dollar and Trade Dollar) issued in 1875 was 700 pieces. Clearly the mint anticipated a strong collector demand for the new double dime. Given the estimated number of survivors, it would seem that many of those coins did not sell, and were melted. The 1875 Proof double dime is second most common Proof twenty cent coin, just behind the 1876. The coin can usually be located for a price.

    1876-P, Proof Mintage 1,260, Estimated number of survivors 700

    1876 20c Proof 3 O.jpg 1876 20 C Proof 3 R.jpg

    The 1876 Twenty Cent Piece is the most common Proof double dime. The coin is often available at major shows and auctions.

    1877-P, Proof Mintage 350, Estimated number of survivors 400 (?)

    1877 Twenty Cents me O.jpg 1877 Twenty Cents me R.jpg

    The 1877 Proof Twenty Cent Piece is the scarcest issue among the “collectable” double dimes. Recently auction prices for this piece have gone up over 100% in the last three years. Clearly some collectors and speculators have placed this coin on their “buy it now” lists for whatever reason.

    The mintage and number of survivors reported in the standard reference sources is confusing. Clearly there cannot be a mintage of 350 coins with 400 survivors. I believe that the original mintage was 510 pieces which matches the reported mintages for the dime, quarter, half dollar and Trade Dollar. Perhaps all of those silver coins were sold as sets, but the Twenty Cent Piece were withheld from the sets for some reason. My theory is that the number of survivors is around 350 pieces.

    To be continued ...
  5. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    1878-P, Proof Mintage 600, Estimated number of survivors 500

    1878 20 Cents O.jpg 1878 20 Cents R.jpg

    The last Twenty Cent Piece was struck only in Proof and the mintage ended in mid year when Congress ended the authorization for the double dime. The Proof mintage for the other silver coins was pegged at 800 pieces with the Proof-only mintage for the Trade Dollar set at 900 coins. Therefore the Proof Mintage of 600 pieces makes sense. Some coins went unsold and were melted at the mint.

    The 1878 Twenty Cent Piece is more common than the 1877. Perhaps this fact has limited collector and speculator demand for this issue. Auction prices have not risen as rapidly for this coin. Still the purchase of an 1878 Twenty Cent piece represents a major financial commitment for most collectors.
    Paul M., mikenoodle, imrich and 18 others like this.
  6. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    You best bet for a P-L 20-cent piece would probably be the 1875-P. I owned an AU example, that had been lightly cleaned, when I was in high school and beyond that had P-L characteristics, especially on the reverse.

    I have seen them at the shows, but finding one that the grading services have labeled P-L would be a challenge. It might be easier now since PCGS has taken on a more liberal policy toward P-L coins.
    Paul M. likes this.
  7. physics-fan3.14

    physics-fan3.14 You got any more of them.... prooflikes? Supporter

    There are 6 designated 1875, 4 1875S, and 6 1876. They aren't common by any means!
    Paul M. likes this.
  8. Randy Abercrombie

    Randy Abercrombie Supporter! Supporter

    Your posts are always so educational and I love them. I often have tried to compartmentalize just what it was about the Carson City mint. Your description of the “romanticism” of the mint was perfect.
    Murphy45p and johnmilton like this.
  9. Johndoe2000$

    Johndoe2000$ Well-Known Member

    Excellent posts John. Thanks for putting in the time.
    Railguy and johnmilton like this.
  10. NSP

    NSP Well-Known Member

    Another excellent post! I’m convinced that they need to edit the code for this website so that it automatically features your posts since they are always so good.
  11. Mainebill

    Mainebill Wild Bill

    33629533-F115-47EF-9171-CBB9A61B00DE.jpeg C55BEE20-4A61-42A1-BCA0-46904D22B232.jpeg Great posts. As a dealer/ collector I always like this odd denomination and am always on the hunt for the 75 and 76 p I find them much harder to find very underrated and easy to sell. I was at an antique auction a few years back with a nice group of estate fresh 19th c silver coins. They had choice of a 75 or 75-s and when I won they assumed I wanted the s mint. I said not a chance. The 75 p. Which was a nice xf 45 and went to pcgs and sold right away. The s was vf this was my type set example which unfortunately I had to sell a couple years ago needing money. Hoping to replace it with similar or better at some point. I find the 75-cc very common in low grade and very hard to sell period as it’s overpriced and overrated unless it’s spectacular. Every coin show I go to has several examples usually g-f
  12. mdwoods

    mdwoods New Member

    Excellent thread, very informative and interesting. Thanks.
  13. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Well-Known Member

    Great post professor. Thank you.
  14. JeffC

    JeffC Active Member

    You should submit this write-up to the Numismatist. Really cool and informative.
  15. NYandW

    NYandW Makes Cents!

  16. Murphy45p

    Murphy45p Active Member

    Mr. Milton, your collection and knowledge never cease to impress!
  17. ldhair

    ldhair Clean Supporter

    Great thread.
  18. Collect89

    Collect89 Coin Collector

    Great thread & a fun read. Thank you muchly.

    I've got the 1875-S where the S is obviously re-punched. The S looks like $. It is a relatively common variety. I'll continue looking for a photo to share.
  19. Michael K

    Michael K Well-Known Member

    I see no logic in giving back a dime, when something costs 12 1/2 cents and a 20 cent coin is used to purchase it. The change would be 7 cents. Not 10. And the merchant would be keeping the extra 1/2 cent. Unless the half cents were still in circulation in 1875.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2019
    Paul M. likes this.
  20. Eric Babula

    Eric Babula Active Member

    Great post as always, John! Thank you for sharing your knowledge! This post kept me reading while waiting in the airport for a connecting flight back home, and I'm saving it to read again later!
  21. Collect89

    Collect89 Coin Collector

    Here is the 1875 S/S:
    Paul M. and Murphy45p like this.
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