Twenty Cent Piece
The US twenty cent piece was struck for only three years, from 1875 to 1878. The release of the coin was cause for much confusion as it closely resembled a quarter. As such, there was little demand for the coin which led to it being abolished in 1878.
History of the Twenty Cent Piece
In 1874, John P. Jones of Nevada was a newly elected senator. He pressed for the creation of a twenty cent piece to solve the problem of small change shortage in the American Frontier. His bill passed Congress with Mint director Henry Linderman ordering a pattern to be struck that was similar to other silver coins.
The idea of a twenty cent coin was not new. Thomas Jefferson floated the idea around in 1783, but that was abandoned in favor of the quarter. The idea received traction again in 1806 but that fizzled out as well.
With the silver three-cent piece, half dime, and dollar abolished through the Mint Act of 1873, it was increasingly difficult to correctly change a quarter. Enter Senator Jones and his bill, which President Grant signed into law on March 3, 1875.
The release of the coin caused public confusion thanks to its similarity to the quarter. With such widespread dislike for the new coin, it wasn’t surprising then that a bill was the following year to stop mintage. However, it took until 1878 for it to be passed into law.
Design of the Twenty Cent Piece
Initial designs for the twenty cent coin closely resembled the quarter. As such, design revisions were submitted. However, with design uniformity dictated by the Treasury Department, Linderman ended up choosing a design similar to the quarter.
The coin’s obverse featured a seated Liberty figure holding a staff that was topped by a Liberty cap. The figure is surrounded by thirteen stars with the date placed below.
The reverse of the twenty cent piece featured an eagle from the Trade dollar, a design by Chief Engraver William Barber. Along with the eagle was were the inscriptions UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and TWENTY CENTS.
The coin was designed with a smooth edge to differentiate it from the quarter, which had a reeded edge. But different edges aside, the coin still caused confusion among the public. Essentially, its run ended before it could even begin.
Twenty Cent Piece Combinations
Eight different date-and-mint combinations were made during the three-year run of the twenty-cent coin. Much of the production was done at the San Francisco mint – the only time it produced the coin. Carson City produced more than 100,000 pieces during the first year but only 10,000 in the second. The Philadelphia mint produced the fewest coins.
Although it was short-lived, this coin produced a famous rarity: the 1876 coin minted in Carson City. This is a special coin since much of the already produced twenty cent pieces were melted down, with only a few saved.
Collecting Twenty Cent Pieces
The 1875 coin minted in San Francisco is widely available. The coins minted in Philadelphia also occur quite frequently. A series can be assembled, minus the elusive 1876 Carson City mint, for a modest investment.