1876-CC Twenty Cent Piece, MS64
1876-CC 20C MS64 PCGS. This near-Gem 1876-CC twenty cent
piece is well-struck with a slight degree of weakness noted on the
eagle's central breast feathers and right (facing) talons. Both
sides are smooth and free of contact marks or other surface
distractions. Lovely lavender-gray toning in the fields becomes a
bit lighter on the central devices, while touches of olive-green
patina gather near the peripheral devices, including the date, and
around the edges of Liberty's motif. A similar toning arrangement
is observed on the reverse, where deep electric-blue coloration is
added around the periphery.
Fabled Numismatic Rarity
Ex: Eliasberg Collection
Variety: From The Mint on Carson Street, by Rusty Goe (2003):
"The most significant die characteristic of the 1876-CC 20-cent piece is the doubled LIBERTY on the shield. Correlating to this is doubling on some of the stars at the left rim, as well as the first letters in TWENTY on the reverse. The letters in the mintmark are spaced wider apart than on any 'CC' issue, with the first 'C' being above the Y in TWENTY, and the second 'C' being located on the other side of the arrow feathers almost directly above the C in CENTS."
Population Data (5/14): Seven examples of this rare issue have been seen by NGC, including three MS64 and four MS65. PCGS reports 15 grading events: one coin is listed at AU58, while the others are in Mint State grades ranging from MS61 to MS66. Five pieces MS64, three are MS65, and two coins are MS66.
Heritage Commentary: In February 1874, Senator John Percival Jones of Nevada introduced a bill in Congress calling for the production of a silver twenty cent piece. First minted in 1875, the denomination's size and design led to widespread confusion with the Seated Liberty quarter. Nevertheless, U.S. Mint Director Henry R. Linderman understood the political pressure that the Mint faced to produce as many coins as possible from the Comstock Lode silver. Accordingly, he instructed James Crawford, superintendent of the Carson City facility, to maintain ample supplies of the denomination on hand. Since many of the 133,290 twenty cent pieces struck in Carson City in 1875 had already been released into circulation, Crawford authorized the production of another 10,000 pieces in 1876. Struck sometime during the first week of May, the majority of these coins remained in the Mint's vaults until May 1877.
On May 19, 1877, Director Linderman wrote to Crawford:
"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 loss thereon."
It can be assumed that nearly all 1876-CC twenty cent coins were melted soon after the issuance of this directive from Washington, resulting in the destruction of almost all of the 10,000 pieces produced. Somehow, as frequently occurs under similar circumstances, a few of the coins were held back and escaped the melting pot. The most likely explanation for the pieces saved would be the small number sent to the Assay Commission in Philadelphia. In 1957 a hoard of eight to 10 Gem Uncirculated examples was discovered in Baltimore, Maryland, essentially doubling the known population of this famous rarity. Some have speculated that those coins may have represented all or part of the sample originally sent to the Assay Commission. Since there are a handful of worn and impaired pieces known, it is possible that some were paid out from the mint, and presumably circulated in the Carson City area. For example: John Seagraves Peck, a wagon maker from Virginia City, Nevada, acquired an example in 1876, allegedly from a contact at the Carson City Mint. The coin was held by Peck's family for 133 years until it was sold at auction by Bowers and Merena in 2009. That example has been graded AU58 by PCGS.
The first known auction appearance of this famous rarity occurred at the sale of the Robert Coulton Davis Collection by the New York Stamp and Coin Company, in January 1890. Presented as lot number 1506, the coin in question was described in the auction catalog as:
"1876 c c mint: sharp, brilliant, uncirc. We know of no duplicate of this mintage."
That coin sold for $7.00.
On June 12, 1899, the collection of Dr. S.L. Lee was auctioned by J.W. Scott & Company. Included was an 1876-CC twenty cent piece, purchased by noted collector John M. Clapp. That coin was later purchased as part of the John H. Clapp Estate by Louis Eliasberg, Sr., and it is the same example offered here.
The following comments were made by Edgar H. Adams in the March 1911 volume of The Numismatist:
"Mr. Elmer S. Sears is exhibiting one of the greatest prizes of the mintmark field-an Uncirculated specimen of the extremely rare 20-cent piece of 1876, of the Carson City Mint. The piece is remarkable for the fact that although 10,000 are said to have been struck at the Nevada mint in that year, still not more than four pieces can now be located."
One of the coins referenced by Adams is the current specimen, which would eventually be purchased by Eliasberg in 1942. This coin shattered previous records when it sold for $148,500 in 1997 as part of the famed Eliasberg auction sale conducted by Bowers and Merena. More recent auction results have included the sale of the Battle Born Collection, conducted at the 2012 ANA Convention, where an MS64 example was sold for $460,000; and a Gem PCGS specimen offered by Stack's Bowers in their January 2013 Rarities Night sale, where it realized the record price of $564,000. Serious collectors considering the purchase of this fabulous example from a historic collection should plan to bid accordingly.
Provenance: S.L. Lee Collection (J.W. Scott & Co., 6/12/1899); John H. Clapp Estate, 1942; Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection (Bowers and Merena, 4/1997), lot 1353. (Registry values: N1) (NGC ID# 23R9, PCGS# 5300)
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