Every so often you get a pleasant surprise. It may not be on the order of winning the lottery, but every little bit helps and that is how Americans might have seen the situation back in 1873. Back then many were quite aware of silver and gold and when the weight of the quarter was raised from 6.22 grams to 6.25 grams that meant every quarter contained a small additional amount of silver. It was not the sort of thing that caused anyone to go out and buy a new horse or offer to pay for a round of drinks at the local saloon, but it was still something. And where the government is concerned, something is always better than nothing.
Historically, the government had been fairly careful when the amount of silver or gold in coins had been changed. There were design changes or at least arrows put at the date to identify coins with a slightly different amount of silver whenever that had happened in the 1800s. This was the case with the new quarters. Arrows were placed at the date in 1873 and 1874.
It did not happen at the start of the year, so some of the old and slightly lighter quarters were produced before the new ones were ready. This was especially true at the branch mints, where the information and the new dies came later.
We cannot be exactly sure what the situation was in Carson City during the period of transition to the new design and size. What we do know is that Carson City produced 4,000 examples of the old weight with no arrows at the date. It also produced 12,400 1873-CC dimes with no arrows and only one is known today, suggesting all of the others were melted. In the case of half dollars, however, 122,500 were produced without arrows before the change was made and those half dollars, at least in circulated grades, are available today. It was a situation where one denomination was melted and another circulated, so there was no specific rule as to what to do about the older size, no-arrows Carson City coins.
In the case of the quarter, the logical expectation would be that with the lowest mintage for the three no-arrows denominations, they would have been melted. This appears to be the case although not to quite the degree as the no-arrows 1873-CC dime. About half a dozen examples of the 1873-CC no-arrows quarters are known to exist. An example changed hands in April of 1999 when an MS-62 was sold by Heritage for a price of $106,375. The others are believed to be in similar grades with a current price estimate of $75,000 just for a VG-8.
The new weight, with-arrows 1873-CC quarter had a mintage of 12,462. It might be thought they would have survived being slightly heavier, but survival prospects in Carson City at the time were poor and saving potential was minimal. It currently lists for $3,500 in G-4, and that price rises to $35,000 in MS-60. It should be noted that the with-arrows 1873-CC moves relatively little in price, in part because it does not trade actively.
Grading service reports show totals that support the current high prices. Professional Coin Grading Service reports a total of 18, of which a single MS-64 was by far the best. In fact, that MS-64 was nine points higher than the second best, which was a pair of AU-55 examples. The overwhelming majority (11 of the 18) were in heavily circulated grades.
Although the no-arrows version is the better of the two, it has to be said that any 1873-CC is an extremely tough coin from what was a remarkable year at Carson City.