The twenty cent piece is one of the oddball denominations of the United States monetary system, along with the 2 and 3 cent pieces and the $3 gold piece. It was extremely short lived issue, which proved to be highly unpopular and was never generally accepted in commerce. The coins were struck for circulation during only two years from 1875 to 1876, followed by two additional years of proof strikings for collectors in 1877 and 1878. Of all the issues, the 1876-CC Twenty Cent Piece stands alone as the rarest issue for the denomination and also one of the rarest coins ever struck at the Carson City Mint.
The Twenty Cent denomination was created by a bill from Senator Jones of Nevada introduced in 1874 and enacted in 1875. It was a direct result of the rising importance of the Western States and the miners of the Comstock Lode, a huge silver deposit discovered in Nevada in 1859 which would lead to the opening of a federal Mint in Carson City in 1870. After the introduction of the bill, a large number of patterns were created at the Philadelphia Mint. The eventual design for the denomination would combine a modification of Christian Gobrecht’s Seated Liberty design (found on all other silver coins in circulation at the time) with William Barber’s Trade Dollar design. The size would be slightly smaller than a quarter, which had a reeded edge. To prevent confusion, the twenty cent piece would have a plain edge.
The denomination quickly failed. There was virtually no support from the general public who thought the denomination was awkward and too easily confused with the quarter dollar. The plain edge was a minor difference which was not noticed. A bill to repeal the failed denomination was introduced in July 1876, although it would take two more years for the bill to be enacted. In the meantime the Philadelphia Mint produced a small number of proof strikings for collectors, but no further circulation strikes were produced at any of the Mints that had struck the coins in relatively large quantities in 1875.