Numismatic mysteries are just about as good as it gets in terms of fun. Much of the time, the mystery involves rarity. Something along the lines of: why is a given date with a large mintage so tough? In other cases there is confusion in the records.
A good example of that is the 1877-CC Seated Liberty quarter. This has to be one of the most interesting coin mysteries of all. The only problem is that we do not really know the story. What makes it all the more interesting is that, whatever the reason, saving the 1877-CC quarter would have made very little sense at the time. Simply put, this was not a period when a normal person would have started hoarding quarters.
It was all the more peculiar being that this was a Carson City quarter. As a general rule of thumb there was little, if any, saving of new coins in Carson City. A few other Carson City issues have small numbers known in Mint State, but the 1877-CC had a 4,192,000 mintage, a heavy mintage for Carson City.
That said, as Q. David Bowers reports in his book, American Coins Treasures and Hoards, the 1877-CC was clearly saved in some numbers. Bowers explains, “Hundreds of these came onto the rare coin market in the 1950s and 1960s”. He went on to explain that many had the bottom tips of the “77” doubled. He also concludes, “the writer has never been able to learn the source.”
Just how many were there? If we look at the grading service totals today it’s remarkable. At NGC they have graded over 200 Mint State examples of the 1877-CC quarter, about twice as many as any other Carson City date. The PCGS total is even higher with almost 250 just in MS-62 through MS-64. The 1876-CC and 1878-CC are available in some numbers, but nothing close to the 1877-CC.
Certainly this makes for a mystery and probably one we will not solve. If Q. David Bowers cannot trace the source, it is likely the source will never be traced. It’s too bad; it leaves us with so many questions that will always be unanswered. Interestingly enough, if you look at the price of the 1877-CC today you find it is $325 in MS-60. That is $100 more than an available date of the type. It must be a Carson City premium as it is hard to get much more available for a coin from 1877. The MS-65 listing is $2,000 which is a slight premium over the most available dates.
The 1877-CC may not be headed to higher ground any time soon, but it is an available Carson City quarter with an unusual story and that may well make paying a slight premium worth it.