The 1876 20-cent piece is an interesting and very low mintage coin that one can buy at a very good price. It is a coin that is hard to pass up but with few collectors of the denomination, it also seems likely that the 1876 will remain at relatively modest prices for the near future and perhaps forever.
The 1876 20-cent piece needs to be understood as part of a two-year saga. The 20-cent piece would actually last for four years, but the final two were proof only issues.
The first and most important failing of the 20-cent piece was that it was too close in size to the quarter. This caused confusion, which produced complaints from the public. The other failing was that it was a denomination with no purpose. In fairness, it was meant to use up silver and keep the mints busy producing coins. But there was absolutely nothing a 20-cent piece could do in circulation that two dimes could not do. Dimes had the added advantage of not getting confused with other denominations.
The initial 1875 mintage in Philadelphia was just 36,910 pieces along with 2,790 proofs. It was not a ringing endorsement, as San Francisco produced 1,155,000. The 20-cent piece failed completely and quickly.
Whether there was really any need for a mintage in 1876 is an interesting question. Carson City had a mintage of 133,290 the first year and 10,000 pieces in 1876, which appears to never have been released. Philadelphia went ahead with a token production of 14,640 pieces and 1,260 proofs the second year.
If the 1876 was released into circulation, it was almost certainly returned quickly. There is reason to doubt that any 1876 pieces would have circulated long enough to be found in lower circulated grades.
With its low mintage, the 1876 is not an expensive coin today. In G-4 it lists for $185, which is considerably less than the much higher mintage 1875-CC. Whether that difference is a classic case of a Carson City premium or is based on actual numbers is hard to say, as G-4 examples of 20-cent pieces are not likely to end up at grading services in large numbers. It is worth noting that the 1876 is $20 more in G-4 than the 1875, which might suggest a low number available.
In MS-60 the 1876 lists for $800, which is close in price to the 1875’s $835, safely higher than the 1875-S, but well below the Carson City 1875. There was likely to be more saving at Philadelphia, so even with a higher mintage it is probably correct to see the 1875-CC at a higher price. Whether the 1875 and 1876 should be near the same price is another question.
Low demand is likely to be the real price influence. Even though there is only a very small supply, most see the 20-cent piece as a type coin so all prices of 1875 dates and the 1876 are about the same. The 1876 is probably slightly better, but it is not likely to show up in the price without more demand.