The 1876-CC 20-cent piece may not get the attention it deserves simply because it is a 20-cent piece, and even more than 130 years after it was discontinued, some are still trying desperately to forget the experience.
The 20-cent piece must have been one of those truly stupid ideas that somehow looked good at the time. There were already dimes and what a 20-cent piece could do, two dimes could do just as well. However, no one seemed to want to explore that particular scenario back in the 1870s. In fact, there was a better reason to make 20-cent pieces and that was to use silver. Why they would pick a relatively small coin to do this is another interesting matter.
But they went ahead with the 20-cent piece and immediately ran into trouble. It was often confused with the quarter since there was very little difference in size.
Philadelphia minted just 39,700 of the new 20-cent pieces in 1875. In Carson City, they made 133,290 in 1875, but that says they were really only slightly more optimistic than Philadelphia.
It tells you a lot if Carson City was not enthusiastic about the new denomination, despite being less than 20 miles away from the heart of the Comstock Lode. It was this silver that was causing all the fuss. The Comstock Lode had so much silver that it was driving the price of the metal down.
In 1876 Carson City, while making nearly 5 million quarters, produced only 10,000 1876-CC 20-cent pieces. Even worse is that we are fairly certain that those 10,000 1876-CC 20-cent pieces were not even released into circulation. They appear to have sat in the vault, waiting for a demand that never came.
It appears that sometime after being minted, the bulk of the 1876-CC 20-cent pieces were melted. We cannot be sure, but with a mintage of 10,000 there should be some heavily circulated examples around today, but there are none.
In fact, there are barely any 1876-CC 20-cent pieces at all and many of the ones we know about trace to a hoard coming from Baltimore dealer Tom Warfields in the 1950s, according to Q. David Bowers. Placed at seven to nine coins, Bowers observed, “Each coin was a lustrous gem, delicately toned and virtually perfect.”
So, where did the coins come from? Bowers suggests, “It is my opinion that these may have come from someone who once served on the Assay Commission, which in 1877 reviewed the prior year’s coinage.”
Numismatic Guaranty Corporation has graded just five examples of the 1876-CC, with two in MS-64 and two in MS-65. Professional Coin Grading Service has seen 12, with grades from MS-61 to MS-66. That means the grading services almost never see a circulated 1876-CC though there is at least one circulated piece known, an AU-58.
The total of 17 may actually include a couple submitted more than once. The general belief is that there are no more than 20 examples known. That has produced a price of $86,500 for a 1999 sale of an MS-63, but realistically, an MS-63 is a slightly lower grade. The Eliasberg MS-65 brought $148,500 back in 1997, and with a number of examples in higher grades, this is likely to be the minimum price for a nice 1876-CC today. In fact, they could very easily go much higher.