20 Cent Piece

Posted by on November 14, 2011

Coin Weight (g) Composition Silver Melt Value Full Melt Value
Barber (1875-1878) 5 90% silver, 10% copper
1876 twenty cents obv 20 Cent Piece

1876 Twenty Cent Coin

The United States silver 20 cent coin, commonly known as the 20 Cent Piece,  was struck between 1875 through 1878 is 90% silver, 10% copper, 22mm in diameter, and weighs 5 grams. The obverse has the “Sitting Liberty” designed by Christian Gobercht in 1836. This obverse was used on the dime, quarter and half-dollar for several decades. A difference is the inscription “LIBERTY” on the shield is raised and the highest point of the obverse. It is the main focus of grading Fine or better on this silver coin. The date is underneath with thirteen stars encircling the top of the coin. The edge is smooth where most United States’ silver coins are reeded.

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The reverse was designed by William Barber in 1875. It has an eagle with wings spread clutching arrows and an olive branch. If not minted in Philadelphia there is a mint mark between the eagle and “TWENTY CENTS”. This encircles underneath separated by a star on each side from the top inscription “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” which encircles the rest of the coin.

As far as United States silver coins go the twenty cent piece is an oddity to be noted. It was minted for general circulation for only two years, 1875 and 1876, the shortest in United States’ minting history with Proof coins only in 1877 of 350 and 1878 of 600 both out of the Philadelphia Mint. Proofs were also minted in 1875 there were 2,790 struck and 1876 there were 1,260. The lion’s-share of these silver coins came out of the San Francisco Mint (S), where in 1875 there were  1,155,000 struck. In total less than 1.4 million twenty cent silver coins were struck. The Carson City (CC) striking was retained by the Mint and most of it was melted down, only a dozen or two are thought to have survived.

Reverse of 1875 United States 20c coin 300x300 20 Cent Piece

Reverse of a 1875 United States 20 Cent Coin

The 20 cent coin is similar in size and hard to distinguish from the quarter of the time which also has the Sitting Liberty obverse. Senator John Percival Jones from Nevada used his influence on behalf of the silver miners working the large Comstock Lode. The idea was to find a way to increase United States silver exports. The twenty cent coin was setup to compete against the French silver-franc that was a widely used international reserve currency at the time. The Canadian’s had also tried to integrate with the European adaption of 20/100 earlier in the 1800’s only to stay with the 25/100. Europe has mostly adapted to decimal monetary systems and today’s’ Eurocurrency has a twenty Eurocent and no twenty-five Eurocent.

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2 comments on “20 Cent Piece

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