A twenty cent coin made sense with a decimal system of coinage, after all five coins would
make a dollar. The denomination was first proposed by Thomas Jefferson in 1783. After
much deliberation, Congress found more merit in the twenty-five cent coin which was
approximately the same value as
two-bits of the Spanish eight-reales coin (the eight-reales
was the coin upon which the value of a dollar was set). Also, the eight-reales coin was
widely used in the American colonies.
In 1806 a bill was introduce to establish the denomination again, the denomination faced no real opposition, but the legislation was defeated because of other parts of the bill.
The Mint Act of 1873 abolished the silver three-cent piece, half dime and dollar. This left little for the San Francisco or Carson City Mints to produce. The half dime rapidly disappearing from circulation. It became difficult to give correct change of a quarter. Hundreds of common items were priced at ten cents, when paying with a quarter, one was likely to be shortchanged by receiving a dime or a Spanish bit, worth only 12 1/2 cents.
In February of 1874 Nevada Senator John Percival Jones introduced a bill making the denomination a reality. The Senator claimed that the twenty cent coin, which could be made at the Carson City Mint, would solve the shortage of small change in the West.
Treasury Department policy mandated complete uniformity of design within a series of coins of the same metal. Since the value of the twenty cent coin and the quarter dollar were very close to the same, and they were to have a similar design, the two designs ended up being very similar and therefore very confusing. The public's enormous dislike for the new coin signaled an early demise in 1878 for the denomination.
Barber used a earlier designed on the reverse showing a eagle with partially raised wings, three arrows in the right claw and a olive branch in the other. It is the same design he used on the Trade Dollar.
20 cent coins were produced for four years: 1875, 1876, 1877 and 1878 (the last two years in Proof only). The 1875 coins were produced in Philadelphia, Carson City and San Francisco. The 1876 were produced in Philadelphia and Carson City only.
Nearly all 10,000 1876-CC 20 cent coins were melted down at the Carson City Mint. A few of the business strikes may have been given to visitors as souvenirs (fewer than 20 are known).
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