It was supposed to be a glorious year in Carson City in 1870 as that was the year of the first mintages from the new branch mint. The facility itself was quite an impressive structure with elegant meeting rooms and gardens.
Unfortunately, there was a negative buzz about the new facility because a fellow named Abe Curry had been named superintendent. Of the famous Gould & Curry mining operation, he was a logical enough choice.
However, logical and popular are two different things. Over the years Curry had managed to make many enemies and those enemies swore they would have nothing to do with the new Carson City mint. They made their threat stick even after he was gone. Instead of sending their silver to Carson City, they were content to ship it all the way to San Francisco. Because of this, Carson City would never live up to its potential.
Of course, the first year at any new facility can be a bit hectic and that was true in 1870. The first 1870-CC Seated Liberty quarter had a small mintage of just 8,340 pieces. The most likely reason for this is a simple matter of priorities. There was also the possibility of small silver supplies because of the problems between Abe Curry and the mine owners.
Whatever the reason, the small mintage was a problem since it was not likely to be saved. The Carson City area at the time did not play host to many avid coin collectors, and a quarter was a large denomination to collect. The 1870-CC would be circulating on the frontier, where coins were easily lost or would very quickly pick up heavy wear. It was not like today where, put in a pocket, a coin could go from coast to coast in a matter of hours. The 1870-CC was not likely to stray far from Carson City for a long time.
These circumstances coupled with the small mintage go a long way toward explaining why the 1870-CC is priced at $8,500 in G-4 today. In VF-20 the current price listing is $24,500, and in AU-50 it’s $35,000.
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We can see how tough the 1870-CC really is when the grading service numbers are checked. Numismatic Guaranty Corporation reports just 14 examples, and none of them received a grade higher than AU-53, which means it was not close to Mint State. At Professional Coin Grading Service, the number graded is 21, but once again none were even close to MS-60.
The conclusion almost has to be that, despite being the first year of a new mint, the 1870-CC is potentially unknown in Mint State and even in higher AU grades.
Realistically, about the best you can expect is perhaps to find an 1870-CC in a lower AU grade, although even that will be a real challenge. Much the same is true in XF since the lack of collector interest in quarters in the years following 1870 would mean almost no examples saved, even when they were in upper circulated grades. If you happen to find a nice 1870-CC, grab it and keep it because it’s a special coin.