20 CENT PIECES
Struck from 1875 to 1878, the 20 Cent Piece is one of the shortest-lived series in American coinage history.
When the 20 Cent Piece debuted in 1875, it was unpopular with the general public and caused frustration for merchants. As the obverse design on the 20 Cent Piece was virtually identical to the obverse on the Quarter (and other silver coinage), both consumers and traders often mistook one coin for the other. To make matters worse, the two coins were also of similar size, with the 20 Cent Piece just over 2 millimeters smaller than the Quarter.
On the obverse of the 20 Cent Piece is the Seated Liberty design. Lady Liberty is sat on a rock with her right hand resting on a shield inscribed LIBERTY and her left holding a pole. Thirteen stars surround the seated figure, with the date stamped below. The reverse depicts a right-facing eagle with outstretched wings, holding arrows in one claw and an olive branch in the other. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and TWENTY CENTS are displayed around the bird.
The 20 Cent Piece was only produced for circulation from 1875 to 1876, the first two years of the short-lived series. In 1875, the mints at Philadelphia, Carson City and San Francisco minted the coins. By 1876, San Francisco stopped striking 20 Cent Pieces. Only proofs were released between 1877 and 1878, all of which were struck at the Philadelphia Mint.
History of the 20 Cent Piece
20 Cent Pieces were introduced during the 1870s after the Silver Half Dime was discontinued, which resulted in a shortage of small change in the far West. However, as Half Dimes didn’t really circulate in the American West, it was clear that Congress just wanted to produce more coins composed of silver. Apparently, the possibility of a 20 Cent Piece had been discussed as early as 1791, and once again in 1806, but nothing came of it.
After the passing of the Coinage Act of March 3, 1875, the 20 Cent Piece was authorized. Philadelphia sculptor, Joseph A. Bailly prepared a Seated Liberty design for the obverse, while chief engraver, William Barber developed an eagle design for the reverse. Philadelphia Mint superintendent, James Pollock felt that Bailly’s offering was too similar to the Seated Liberty coinage already circulating at the time and ordered Barber to come up with another pattern.
The designs were sent to mint director, Henry Linderman who chose an obverse design nearly identical to the Seated Liberty coinage, as well as a reverse eagle design incredibly similar to the one used on the Trade Dollar. Both of the designs were approved on April 12, 1875, and production commenced at the Philadelphia Mint on May 19.
The End of the 20 Cent Piece
As noted previously, merchants and the general public disliked the 20 Cent Piece because they were confused by its similarity to the Quarter Dollar. Most people complained that they had to constantly read the coins to determine which of the two they were using, rather than know at first glance. In July 1876, a bill was introduced to abolish the 20 Cent Piece, which became effective on May 2, 1878.
Over a third of the circulated coins were melted including almost every 1876 Carson City issue. As a result, the 1876-CC issue is extremely rare. Proofs were coined from 1873 to 1878, but only 12 were struck at the San Francisco Mint in 1875, making the 1875-S the rarest proof issue of them all.
You Can Buy 20 Cent Pieces at Capital Gold Group
When you hold a 20 Cent Piece next to a Seated Liberty Quarter, you’ll quickly understand how people confused the identity of the coins and why the decision was made to stop production after just four years. Even though 20 Cent Pieces were unloved in the 1870s, they have an interesting story and have become highly sought after by coin numismatists today.
While circulation strikes were only produced throughout the first two years of the series, they are often quite worn because they remained in circulation for a number of years. The very rare 1876-CC and proof 1875-S are, of course, the most coveted issues, but all 20 Cent Pieces are valuable finds, especially in mint state. One thing we do know for certain is that these coins will make great additions to any collection, regardless of condition.
If you would like to get your hands on a wonderful 20 Cent Piece, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Capital Gold Group. Simply call us or get in touch via our online form for further advice on how you can purchase this desirable coin.
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