The twenty cent piece, or double-dime, is one of many odd denominations made in years long past. It has a fascinating history filled with the West and coinage shortages. These coins also have low mintages and are sought by coin collectors.
In the West, there were few coins, especially of lower denominations. People complained that they would not get full change for something costing ten cents because they would only get a dime in change. In some saloons (called ‘bit houses’) a quarter was treated as two bits (a bit is twelve and a half cents) but a dime was treated as one, ending with a five cent loss to the buyer. Nevada senator John P. Jones saw what he believed could be a solution. He proposed a bill for the twenty cent coin and other senators agreed, some say as a favor to him. It was signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1875.
Overall, Jones’ solution ended in failure. It and the quarter were readily confused, despite the fact that the twenty cent piece had a plain edge instead of the quarter’s reeded edge. Their designs were somewhat similar, both depicting a seated Liberty and an eagle and their sizes were almost the same. This coin did not circulate and was discontinued two years after it was begun in 1875. Some coins were made for collectors in 1877 and 1878, and both years are valuable to collectors.
The San Francisco Mint produced a large amount of these coins in 1875, a whopping 1,155,000. However, all of the other twenty cent pieces produced do not even add up to half of this year’s mintage. All of these coins are valuable and sought after by collectors. According to the 2016 Red Book, even the most common coin of this denomination is valued at 650 dollars in low uncirculated condition. The lowest mintage (the 1877 Philadelphia coins, with a mintage of 510) sells for $5,750 as a PF-63 coin. This coin, though it is not collected as frequently as many other coinage sets, is desirable to collectors and sought after.
The twenty cent coin was one of America’s odd denominations and a failure based upon the fact that the quarter was a more established denomination. Even though it was not a success at the time, it has become a popular collectors’ item as well as a reminder of the history of the old western times.