Photos courtesy David Lawrence Rare Coins
The Legend of the 1876-CC 20-cent Piece
The 1876-CC might well be one of the most overlooked of all the great numismatic rarities. Hailing from an original mintage of approximately 100,000 coins, only a handful remain today thanks to a number of unusual circumstances of the day.
Early in 1877 the U.S. Treasury concluded that the 20-cent program was indeed a failure. The coinage had never gained acceptance, and demand for the coins was at an all-time low. This was especially true at the Carson City mint, where the production of 1875-CC coins had yet to be exhausted. In fact, the CC Mint facility was still doling out 1875-dated coins when orders came in to melt the ENTIRE remaining inventory of 20-cent pieces. The only exception to this was an unreported (small) number of 1876-dated coins which were required to be shipped back to Washington to the Assay office for record keeping.
The Collecting of Mintmarks
It is well known that collectors of the late 19th Century generally pursued year-only sets. It wasn’t until around 1893 that the pursuit of dates AND mintmarks became a popular methodology. And it was then, nearly 20 years after their mintage, that the 1876-CC 20-cent piece was determined to be an absolute rarity. At this time, the 1876-CC became highly prized by the famous collectors of the day, including John Clapp (who eventually sold his to Louis Eliasberg).
The number of known coins would surely number less than 10 today if not for the existence of one small group which appeared on the market in the late 1950’s. According to Q. David Bowers, this “Maryland Estate hoard” is most likely the coins which emerged from the Assay Commission request in 1876. Since this discovery almost no new examples have surfaced.
16 to 20 known Coins
While the exact number of known coins isn’t known, numismatists generally accept that there are “fewer than 21” (Bowers) and likely only 16 (Stacks). Of these at least 4 are circulated or otherwise lower than MS60 in grade. The Registry of all known specimens can be found in Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia (this specimen is the plate coin in that book!), the Eliasberg Collection Sale of 1997 (Bowers and Merena) and other catalogs.
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This Coin: Boyd-Kern-Hydeman-Champa-Hawn Specimen
Of all the extant coins of this famous issue, the example we offer here offers an equally exciting pedigree as well as boasting gem quality. Graded MS65 by NGC, this coin is a lustrous gem with a light splash of overall gold toning. As with all known genuine examples, the word LIBERTY is boldly doubled.
It was last offered for sale by Stack’s in February 2002, where it realized $115,000 as an uncertified coin. Other recent auction records include the Eliasberg specimen (4/1997) $136,000 and the James Stack coin (3/1995) $99,000. Since these sales, the collecting market for true rarities has exploded and we believe that the 1876-CC is truly undervalued in the low six-figures.
Sources from this article include the April 1997 Eliasberg Auction Catalog, published by Bowers & Merena; the Stack’s Auction Catalog of February 2002.