How on earth can a coin of the United States with perhaps fewer than half a dozen examples known be eclipsed by another coin from the same year? If the year in question is 1873, and the place is Carson City, it can happen. The circumstances make for a very interesting story.
The situation in 1873 was relatively complicated. The price of silver was beginning to weaken, and in response there was legislation in Congress to slightly increase the amount of silver in the regular silver coin issues. This legislation passed early in the year but not before some lighter coins had already been produced.
This seems to have been especially true out in Carson City, which was its own little world (in the minds of many officials at the time, anyway). After years of efforts to get the mint facility, a large percentage of silver from the famous Comstock Lode in nearby Virginia City was not even winding up there; mine owners were shipping their silver all the way to San Francisco to be made into coins.
Precisely what was going on in Carson City is anyone’s guess. With passage of the new law, there had to be some marking to indicate the change in silver composition, and it was decided to put arrows at the date of all the new higher silver content coins. By the time word and new dies reached Carson City, however, some lighter 1873 issues had already been struck without arrows.
We cannot be sure whether this was simply the normally slow pace at Carson City or whether mintages were cut short. A total of 12,400 Seated Liberty dimes were produced without arrows, along with 4,000 quarters, 122,500 half dollars, and 2,300 dollars.
What happened to these various issues seems not to have followed any specific pattern. With its large mintage, some of the half dollar denomination reached circulation. The 1873-CC no arrows half dollar brings higher prices than might be expected today, but it certainly does exist.
There is some uncertainty about the 1873-CC no arrows dollar, which is actually tougher than its already low mintage would suggest. The general belief is that some were melted, but whether that was before they were released or were turned in afterwards is unclear. Turning them in would have been natural, as they were being replaced by larger Trade dollars. But among their small numbers today are some circulated examples, making it clear that at least some did reach circulation.
Things appear to be different for the 1873-CC no arrows dime and quarter. Their mintages were small, but if they ever reached circulation, we would expect a few to be known today. Instead, what we have are a single dime and perhaps half a dozen quarters. The other known 1873-CC dimes and quarters all have arrows at the date, meaning they were of the new and slightly higher silver content.
The no arrow dime is believed to have been saved for the annual Assay Commission meeting. It is hard to make a similar assumption about the quarters, however. While generally Mint State, there are simply too many of them. In all probability, someone must have saved a few.
What is truly amazing is that the 1873-CC no arrows quarter has at least so far failed to realize the sort of prices you might expect for a coin with fewer than half a dozen pieces that can be traced with certainty.
Part of the problem may be the uncertainty over the number known, as one guide says five and another says six. However, all agree that it stands at half a dozen or less. Even at the higher estimates, this is still a coin with fewer known than the 1894-S dime or 1804 dollar or any number of other rarities.
The last sale of an 1873-CC no arrows quarter, which took place in April 1999 by Heritage, brought a price of $106,375. The monthly “Coin Market” section of Numismatic News currently lists the coin at $350,000 in MS63 condition.
Perhaps the lack of publicity is simply because the 1873-CC no arrows dime gets all the attention. Whatever the reason, the 1873-CC no arrows quarter is currently cheap relative to the number known. That could change quickly and dramatically the next time one is offered for sale.
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