DALLAS–A coin that was the result of the perfect confluence of partisan politics and poor planning in Reconstruction-era America, an 1876-CC 20-cent piece graded MS64 by NGC, is among the highlights of Heritage Auction Galleries’ March Baltimore, Md., Signature® U.S. Coin Auction, March 28-31. The coin, from The Belle Collection of Carson City Coinage, is one of less than 20 known surviving examples from a mintage of 10,000.
The 1876-CC 20 cent piece, produced at the legendary Carson City Mint, was an oddity even in its own time. For more than 80 years, quarters had been one of the nation’s principal subsidiary coins. The idea of the 20-cent piece, however, hearkened back to the days, and ideas, of Thomas Jefferson. This coin, though, was no sop to the nation’s third president. It was an effort by the powerful emerging silver lobby out of America’s West—Nevada, in particular, in the form of Silver Baron turned Senator John Percival Jones—to get a piece of the expanding federal pie. Jones succeeded in 1875 in overseeing passage of a Congressional bill authorizing production of the 20-cent denomination. Production began in 1875, only to cease altogether by 1878.
“From the start, the denomination was flawed in concept and execution,” said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage. “It was too close in size to the quarter, and both denominations shared basically the same obverse, with similar reverses. Mint officials, sensing the dangers, produced the coin with a plain edge rather than the quarter’s reeded edge, a subtlety that—like the raised LIBERTY on the 20 cent—was lost on the public at large. It’s reminiscent of the 1979 introduction of the Susan B. Anthony dollar, slightly larger than a quarter and with an 11-sided inner rim to aid in distinguishing it. It lasted three years in circulation.”
Unlike the Susan B., however, this coin has grown to be worth a tremendous amount, both as a numismatic treasure and as an American cultural relic. From a mintage of about 10,000 coins, the current estimate of surviving examples, including the "Maryland Hoard" of seven to nine pieces discovered in the 1950s, is 16 to 18 coins. The 1876-CC 20-cent piece was known as a special and incredibly rare coin as early as 1893, when Augustus Heaton published his famous Mint Marks pamphlet that changed American numismatics forever.
“Although we’ve handled specimens of this legendary rarity twice before, it has been nearly a decade since we last offered an example,” said Rohan. “Coins of this ilk rarely come onto the market, and the present piece may mark the last such appearance for many years to come. In MS64 this piece is one of three so certified at NGC, with only four finer. Although some other issues from the Carson City Mint are now known to be rarer in an absolute sense, the 1876-CC 20 cent has a long-lasting cachet unmatched by any other issue from that fabled and legendary institution.”
As always with Heritage Signature® Auctions, fine collections provide a solid anchor, and this auction is no different. In Baltimore, Heritage will feature five: The Burning Tree Collection, Parts One and Two; The Mario Eller Collection, Part Four; The Ed Lepordo Collection, Part Two; The Pasadena Collection, Part Two; and The Belle Collection of Carson City Coinage.
For more information about Heritage’s auctions, and a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, visit www.ha.com.