One is a great rarity and the other is much tougher than many realize. This is the story of the two 1873-CC Seated Liberty quarters.
The situation in 1873 was an interesting one. The price of silver was starting to decline. The vast wealth of the Comstock Lode basically made that impossible to avoid. There was simply not enough demand for silver to avoid having the supply swamp the demand and result in lower prices. In a move that was really remarkable, the government decided to increase the amount of silver in the silver coins. It was not a large increase, with the amount going from .1800 to .1808 ounces, but the fact remains that it was an increase.
Before the change was approved, Carson City had produced a reported 4,000 quarters. It is probable that the facility melted all but a few since today there are fewer than 10 examples of the no-arrows 1873-CC known. So watch the no-arrows 1873-CC if it is offered at auction, as it could bring a surprising bid.
The slight increase in silver saw a design change for the rest of the 1873 mintage, and that was in the form of arrows at the date. It was not a law, but it had become a tradition that the design had to change when the composition did. When silver was reduced in 1853, there were arrows added to the date and rays to the reverse. The gold composition change of 1834 had seen entirely new designs. In 1873, they were content to simply add arrows.
The arrows would stay at the date for two years, but Carson City would only produce quarters in one of those two years: 1873. With some of the year already over, the 1873-CC with-arrows mintage was likely to be low, and it was at 12,462 pieces.
The problem back in Carson City in 1873 was saving. Even if you have a low mintage, if there are a number of dedicated collectors in the area, at least a few examples of a tougher date end up being saved.
Back in 1873 in Carson City, there were virtually no people collecting coins. There were isolated cases of saving including the no-arrows 1873-CC. After all, someone had to save those coins. Someone also saved 1876-CC 25-cent pieces and later dates, but the fact remains that in general there was very little saving of new issues at Carson City. And, once they hit circulation out in Carson City, a usual round of circulation for a few years would leave any “CC” coin badly worn.
The simple fact is the 1873-CC with arrows was not melted like the 1873-CC without arrows, but it might as well have been since it was released into circulation and promptly vanished.
Consider the grading service totals. At Numismatic Guaranty Company, they report a mere 12 examples seen, one of which was called AU-50. The next best were VF-20 examples. That speaks volumes. So does the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) total that stands at 18 examples seen. At PCGS, they report a single MS-64 with the next best being AU-55, but 11 of the 18 are no better than VF-20.
Normally speaking, the G-4 price of the 1873-CC with arrows of $4,600 would look good as would be the case with the $85,000 MS-60 listing. In this case, however, the prices look reasonable, if not low. Especially worthy of note is that the two services combined have seen just 30 coins. There are rare Dahlonega Mint gold coins with mintage of around 1,000 that have been seen 100 times. However, this is a quarter, which is usually seen more than gold and with a mintage of almost 12,500. Yet, the combined total of 30 coins could well include repeats.
Clearly the with-arrows 1873-CC is a very tough date and one that you should grab if you have a chance. If you happen to find one better than VF-20, then you should acquire the coin if you can afford it because, even in upper circulated grades, the 1873-CC with arrows is a major rarity.