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    Description

    1876-CC Twenty Cent Piece, MS64
    Fewer Than 20 Examples Known
    Famous Battle Born Specimen

    1876-CC 20C MS64 PCGS. CAC. BF-NC-1, R.6. The 1876-CC twenty cent piece is a celebrated rarity in the U.S. federal series, traditionally considered to be in the same rarity class as the 1804 dollar, 1894-S dime, and the 1838-O half dollar. Experts estimate the surviving population of the 1876-CC at just 16-20 examples in all grades. Heritage Auctions is pleased to offer the famous Battle Born specimen of this classic silver rarity in this important lot.

    Origins of the Twenty Cent Piece

    The twenty cent piece was ostensibly conceived as a measure to combat overcharging by merchants in the western part of the country, where five-cent coins were scarce after 1873 and making change for a quarter was often difficult. In truth, the real impetus for coining this denomination probably came from wealthy and politically influential mine owners, who had seen their profits threatened by the Mint Act of February 12, 1873, which eliminated several silver denominations that were no longer needed in the national economy. The twenty cent piece was authorized by the Act of March 3, 1875, with the support of Mint Director Henry Linderman.

    An Unpopular Denomination

    Unfortunately, the odd denomination was doomed from the start. Mint policy in the 19th century insisted on uniformity of design on the 90% silver denominations, with only rare exceptions, like the Morgan dollar. The obverse of the twenty cent piece employed the long-lived Seated Liberty design, also in use on the contemporary dime, quarter, and half dollar. The reverse portrayed an eagle that closely resembled the bird on the Trade dollar reverse. The specifications called for a diameter of 22 mm, extremely close to the 24.3 mm diameter of the quarter, making the two denominations almost indistinguishable at a quick glance. The coins were frequently confused with each other during transactions, resulting in the same kind of overcharging the denomination was supposed to prevent in the first place. In more recent times, a similar situation was created with the Susan B. Anthony dollar, which shows how difficult it is to learn from past mistakes where money is concerned. The twenty cent piece was universally unpopular and the denomination was retired from circulation after 1876, although the Philadelphia Mint continued to strike proofs until 1878.

    The 1876-CC Twenty Cent Piece

    Mint records indicate that 10,000 twenty cent coins were struck at the Carson City Mint in 1876, but fewer than 20 examples survive today. Virtually all of the reported mintage was stored in vaults at the Carson City Mint, because the coins were unwanted in circulation. On May 19, 1877, Mint Director Linderman sent this message to Superintendent James Crawford in Carson City:

    "You are hereby authorized and directed to melt all 20-cent pieces you have on hand, and you will debit 'Silver Profit Fund' with any losses thereon."



    Undoubtedly, the great majority of the 1876-CC mintage was destroyed per these instructions, along with some leftover coins from 1875.

    Fortunately, a few examples of the 1876-CC did reach circulation before Linderman's order was issued. John Seagraves Pick, a "Forty-Niner" who later made his way to Nevada after the Comstock Lode was discovered, acquired at least one specimen in circulation in Virginia City, Nevada in 1876. The coin was treated as an heirloom by his family, and it remained in his descendants' possession until it was auctioned by Bowers and Merena in June 2009. The coin was graded AU58 by PCGS. A few more circulated examples have surfaced over the years, indicating some other coins must have escaped in this manner, but not many have survived.

    Most of the coins we know about today are attractive, high-grade pieces. By law, a number of coins from each year's mintage were set aside for examination by the Assay Commission in Washington, D.C. Naturally, the coins selected tended to be high-quality specimens that would impress the examiners with the craftsmanship of the issuing facility. In the late 1950s, Baltimore dealer Tom Warfield discovered a group of eight to 10 splendid Uncirculated examples in a Maryland estate. The original owner of this remarkable hoard has never been identified, but it seems most likely that he was a member of the Assay Commission in 1877 and set these coins aside, to preserve them for future generations.

    The rarity of the 1876-CC was recognized as early as the R.C. Davis Sale (New York Coin & Stamp, 1/1890), where lot 1506 in the section labeled Fifth Dollars or Twenty Cent Pieces was described as , "1876-CC mint: sharp, brilliant, uncirc. We know of no duplicates of this mintage." A few years later, Augustus Heaton popularized collecting branch mint issues through his influential 1893 work A Treatise on the Coinage of United States Branch Mints. Heaton paid special attention to the 1876-CC, mentioning it in his preface and the main body of the book. By 1894, at least three specimens were known to collectors, as reported in the June issue of The Numismatist, and Edgar Adams identified examples in the possession of Elmer Sears, Virgil Brand, John H. Clapp, and H.O. Granberg in 1911.

    A few more specimens have surfaced over the years, including the pieces in the Maryland estate, until Q. David Bowers published a roster of 21 coins in the Eliasberg catalog in 1997. Bowers noted, "This list must include duplications." PCGS and NGC have combined to certify 23 coins between them, including an unknown number of resubmissions and crossovers (7/19). PCGS Coin Facts estimates the surviving population at 20 examples in all grades and we believe we can trace at least 16 distinct examples.

    The Present Coin

    The coin offered here first surfaced in the Maryland estate hoard that was marketed by dealer Tom Warfield in the late 1950s. It passed through a number of private sales before Dr. David Litrenta acquired it as part of a collection of 1876 coinage. Dr. Litrenta sold his collection, including this coin, through Heritage in August of 1999. It reappeared in the Heritage FUN Signature Auction in January 2000, where it was purchased by Doug Winter and Duncan Lee, who sold it to the Battle Born collector. Stack's Bowers offered the Battle Born Collection in August of 2012 and the coin has been off the market for the past seven years.

    When our friends at Stack's Bowers offered another 1876-CC twenty cent piece in their recent 2019 ANA Convention Auction, they referred to this coin as "the magnificent MS-64 example from the Battle Born Collection" and reprinted Rusty Goe's observations from that sale in their description. We certainly agree that this coin is a special representative of this classic rarity, with sharply detailed design elements in most areas and just a touch of the usual softness on the eagle's head. Like all examples seen, this coin shows strong doubling on stars 2 through 7 and the letters in LIBERTY. When Heritage cataloger Mark Van Winkle studied this coin in its 1999 ANA appearance, he noticed the remnants of two misplaced digits, 87, in the dentils, below the date. A faint die crack is evident from the T in CENTS to the eagle's wing. The well-preserved surfaces radiate satiny mint luster, with a few traces of prooflike reflectivity in selected areas. Delicate hints of golden-tan and lavender toning enhance the outstanding eye appeal. The 1876-CC is listed among the 100 Greatest U.S. Coins.
    Ex: Baltimore Hoard, late 1950s; unknown intermediaries; unknown collector who assembled a set of 1876 coinage, later selling the set through Mark Mendelson; Dr. David Litrenta; ANA signature (Heritage, 8/1999), lot 5518; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2000), lot 5177; Duncan Lee and Doug Winter; Battle Born Collection (Stack's Bowers, 8/2012), lot 11101, realized $460,000.
    From The Poulos Family Collection, Part II. (Registry values: N1)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 23R9, PCGS# 5300)

    Weight: 5.00 grams

    Metal: 90% Silver, 10% Copper


    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    View all of [The Poulos Family Collection, Part II ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    September, 2019
    5th-8th Thursday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 24
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 4,469

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