Investing in Gold by Allen Rowe: Coins rejected in circulation, prized by collectors
For the Nevada Appeal
Many can remember when the Susan B. Anthony (SBA) dollar debuted in 1979. The coin was about the same size as a quarter, had the same color, and what most would describe as an ugly design, plus it was easy to mistakenly pass out as a quarter if not focused on their change. With waning popularity and people grumbling that it was too confusingly close to the size of a quarter the coin was quickly discontinued in 1981.
Most of the 1979 issues were put out into the real world to circulate, by 1980 very few wanted to get the new dollar coin and by 1981 none that were minted were released to general circulation. Revived in 1999 for a short run before the Sacagaweas and presidential dollars the SBA was a miserable failure.
Interestingly enough, the SBA had a predecessor of similar disgust in the 1800s.
With a lack of change circulating, the U.S. mint tried a number of new denominations to help in change making. The shortest lived was the 20-cent piece. Born in 1875 it was only struck for circulation until 1876. Then the next two years saw proof strikes for collectors only.
The coin’s diameter was very close and the obverse design was nearly identical to that of a quarter.
Consequently people hated the coin and very few were struck. Three mints produced the 20-cent coin. Philadelphia in all four years, Carson City in 1875 and 1876, and San Francisco in 1875 only. San Francisco produced the most coins by minting more than 1.1 million in 1875. Philadelphia produced them for four years, but still made fewer than 53,000. Carson City struck just over 143,000, but of the 10,000 struck in 1876, most were melted.
If one is looking to obtain a 20-cent coin, it can be done starting at about $100. But if you wanted to complete a set of these cast-offs from the 1800s be prepared to spend a few dollars.
The Philadelphia 1875 and 1876 coins start at about $200, but the 1877 and 1878 coins totaled less than 1,000 pieces and will set you back anywhere from $3,000 and up.
San Francisco coins are obviously the easiest and start at about $100. Carson City coins are where things get expensive. The 1875-CC is not too expensive and starts at about $300, but the 1876-CC has become legendary.
With the 20-cent pieces being chided as a mistake, the mint ordered Carson City to destroy what coins they had not released to the public. So, even though 10,000 coins were struck, most ended up in the melting pot. Today it is estimated that only about 15 pieces are known to exist. Most of the coins known were pieces that had been sent back east for assay. Only a couple are believed to have made it into circulation and finding one would be any collectors dream. But with the 1876-CC coins starting in the six figure range it could pay to look for one.
• Allen Rowe is the owner of Northern Nevada Coin in Carson City.