I. R. Bama's Blog

14 Nov 2020

What About that Twenty Cent Coin?

Coins-United States | I. R. Bama

Yeah, what about that one? That's an odd denomination. How did that one come to be? Well, I happened to stumble across this article on the U.S. Mint website that explains it all. https://www.usmint.gov/learn/history/proposed-issue-of-twenty-cent-coin

They have a few documents there about some of the coins, not all of them. Actually I was doing a little add on research for my metallurgy article (Coming soon to a blog near you! Don't miss it!!). I was looking up the process of current minting processes of Lincoln Cents (Don't spill the beans!) and found the article about this coin.

I happen to have an 1875 in VG condition and an 1875 CC in VG condition that I bought several years ago in hopes of building a complete set one day. Like many of you, I enjoy the odd denominations of our coinage history.

So this is what I found out.... In 1874 a bill passed the Senate authorizing this coin. They bypassed the House of Representatives because there was no time to be wasted on them! Surprisingly (or not so much), no mention if a political uproar ensued over ignoring the House is noted in that document. The coin was ordered for two reasons: A; It fit in with the decimal system that we use and B; it would solve a problem for making change in Texas and the West Coast where monetary exchange was still based on the 8 Reales of Mexico.

Remember that old High School Cheer? Two bits, four bits, 6 bits, a dollar! All for (insert your school's team nickname here) stand up and holler! ??

A dollar equaled 8 Reales. A quarter of that was 12.5 cents. The introduction of the 20 cent coin made making change a heck of a lot easier. Two bits was a 20 cent coin and a nickel in U.S, money. Before the 20 cent coin, someone got the short end of the stick either buying or selling something in 2.5 cent increments. Remember, the half cent ceased to be minted after 1857.

The Redbook informs us that the 20 cent denomination was issued from 1875 through 1878. It was minted in Philadelphia, Carson City and San Francisco. Designed by William Barber, it was composed of .900 silver and .100 copper. It weighed 5 grams, had a plain edge and was 22 mm in diameter.

The obverse design is the unremarkable Barber design of Seated Liberty, By her left side she lays her shield in a position that reflects a time of peace and her right hand holds a liberty pole with the familiar Phrygian (liberty) cap on the end of the pole.. The reverse features a heraldic eagle design. He holds olive branches in his left claws and arrows in his right. This is one of the coins where the national motto "E Pluribus Unum" will not be found nor will "In God We Trust".

While it is easily obtainable for most collectors to put together a very nice collection in the very fine to extra fine range, there are a couple of dates inaccessible to most of us of modest means. Those would be 1873 proof, the 1875 S proof, the 1876 proof and the 1876 CC. In 1877 and 1978 these were only issued in proof and are out of the price range of most of the numismatic community as well. This leaves us with four coins coins to collect for the collector of moderate means. Probably many of us will be interested in collecting this coin as a type set. That would consist of four coins, the 1875, CC and S, and the 1876. I have included images of both proof and circulation strike coins.



Level 6

I learned a lot from reading your blog. All the odd denominations are pretty cool!


Level 5

Hmmm... strange that they didn't include either mottos on the coin. I also didn't know they only made them for just a 4 year run. Thanks for the informative blog!

I. R. Bama

Level 5

@ Centsearcher... Scroll down to see what Big Nub said about that. I think he is on to something why it only ran 4 years.....


Level 5

Thanks for such an informative blog Bama ! I have also read about this coin in the Mega Red. And, like you stated above decided I couldn't collect "ALL" of them. I would like to have one in my collection and will consider it very soon after I get my "trime" ! Thanks again for posting buddy!


Level 5

Call me naive, but I have never even heard of this coin! Wow. Thanks for sharing! Cheers, NM

I. R. Bama

Level 5

Not naive, there's many things I learn here all the time! Glad I filled in a small spot of your Numismatic knowledge. That's what makes my day when I write one of these!

Seems like it failed for many of the same reasons as the Sacagawea dollar coin. I love the eagle on it. I found a 4 pfennig german piece today, every country has their own odd denominations. Thanks!

*SBA dollar, sorry, but it could also apply in some respects to the sacagawea dollar as well. The twenty-cent piece's value to customers was based on its conversion to the 8 reale piece as you stated above, but most people used dimes as it was more engrained and there were many more examples of it. Like the small dollars, people just used quarters which there were many more and already used for generations for change. The twenty-cent note could also be circumvented with the fractional notes issued during/near the release of the double dime, and as we all know, small dollars were outmatched by its paper counterpart too. Both the SBA and double-dime were confused with quarters leading to many odd transactions and arguments.

I. R. Bama

Level 5

I'd be interested in hearing more on that thought, Nub....


Level 6

Always a nice coin for a type set.


Level 6

Great explanation of this odd guy. I learned from you today. I also love the odd denomination of our coins and the reason behind there minting. It make sense when you describe the reasoning. Thanks 'Bama.

It's Mokie

Level 6

Love the double dime, thanks for your interesting research, looking forward to your upcoming metallurgy blog. That proof in our photo is absolutely stunning.

Long Beard

Level 5

I've had my eye on these for years, yet have not pulled the triggered. An eye appeal/cost factor.


Level 5

To bad the 20 cent isn't still in circulation ! I never tried to collect 20 cent pieces. Her face does look surprised at something. The older coins from the 1800's are always nice to look at just for the age and history. Thanks the the information.


Level 7

I never noticed her face. Nice pick up. She looks like someone is sneaking up behind her. Overall it is a great coin . I have always liked the older coins myself. This blog has everything I needed I also picked something up. I would like to ask Barber why he did that.Makes.her look like and old horror movie .Thanks for.another good blog . Keep them coming!


Level 5

Very nice in view, not so much at her facial expression, it's like someone walked up to her and surprised her. Overall though a nice coin. Well written, thanks!

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