First proposed by Thomas Jefferson in 1783, the twenty cent coin was intended to be part of our first decimal coinage but was superceded by the quarter dollar. The quarter was much closer to the “two bits” Spanish eight-reales pieces then in widespread use.
Eventually, in 1874 a twenty cent coin was proposed by Senator Jones of Nevada. In 1873 the mint had discontinued the issuing of the silver three cent piece, half dime and dollar. With the rapid disappearing of the silver half dime, it was becoming more difficult to get correct change for a quarter. Many common items were priced at ten cents. Change for a quarter would often be a dime or a Spanish bit, worth just 12 _ cents. Probably due to the decreasing demand of silver bullion from the Comstock Lode (located in Nevada), Senator Jones and others provided the impetus needed for the creation of a new silver coin, the twenty cent piece. The act to create the new coin was signed by President Grant on March 3, 1875.
Due to Treasury Department policy, the new coin was made to look quite similar to the quarter and half dollar, unfortunately especially the quarter. The obverse features a William Barber modification of Christian Gobrecht’s Seated Liberty design surrounded by 13 stars and the date. The reverse features Barber’s eagle from the 1873-1885 Trade Dollar with the legend: “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and “TWENTY CENTS.” Unlike the quarter, the twenty cent piece had a plain edge.
Mintage started in 1875. The public immediately hated the coin due to confusion with the quarter. By 1876 a bill had been introduced to halt production of the coins. The final year of mintage was 1878. The twenty cent pieces were minted at the Philadelphia, Carson City and San Francisco Mints. Few mint state examples survive as most were melted into bullion by the government.