The Other CC Coins
By Mark Benvenuto
some, the 19th century may be another line in
the history books, but the latter half of the
century must have qualified as undoubtedly heady
times as they unfolded. The year 1849 saw the
discovery of gold in the young American West. By
1860 the "united" in the United States of
America had unraveled to the point where the
nation went into a four-year war with itself.
In the aftermath of that bloodiest of American
conflicts, silver was found in numerous places
in the western territories, as well as gold. The
fever for precious metals hit people all over
the country. It seemed a person could make it
rich just by finding the right spot to dig in
the sands of the Western deserts.
The government even recognized that with all
that newly mine metal came the need for mint
facilities in the West, first opening a branch
mint in San Francisco, then a branch in Carson
City, Nev. The legacy of the latter of these
facilities today seems too often to be just a
silver dollars, Trade dollars, and
gold coins, all carrying high price tags because
of the CC mintmark. But there is quite a bit
more when one does a bit of modern-day digging.
It's up to us collectors to look for that.
When silver was discovered in what is now called
the Comstock Lode, in 1859, the Lode wasn't even
in Nevada technically. A large portion of what
became Nevada was the western part of the Utah
Territory in 1859, and wouldn't become a part of
Nevada for another two years.
But political lines on a map in a lightly
populated territory were hardly going to stop
the miners, fortune hunters, and the army of
supporters who were aching to pull a fortune in
silver out of the newly found Lode, or who were
willing to steal and scam it from the people who
pulled it from the Lode. They all had a common
mission, and the mission was to be rich.
The Philadelphia Mint was weeks to months away
from the site of all this, and even the San
Francisco Mint was a long and dangerous trek
over some rough territory for the miner who
wished to turn his find into silver coinage. The
solution was to build a branch mint in Carson
City. It ended up being just over a decade
between the discovery of the Comstock Lode and
this branch mint opening for business, but we
shouldn't be too hard today on the government of
the time for taking so long to put the operation
in place. No one at the time knew just how big
the Lode was. No one knew when it would run out.
No one knew if it would be a wise use of federal
funds to build a mint in Carson City, certainly
not right after the discovery.
By 1870, silver and gold coins with the now
coveted CC mintmark were coming out of the new
mint in a dusty new city in Nevada. They
definitely hold a special place in collector
hearts today. Unfortunately, these very same
silver dollars, Trade dollars, and gold coins
also can produce a nearly empty place in a
person's wallet. With that in mind, what's a
collector of modest means to do?
The answer to that might be to put the big coins
on hold and start small. Instead of pining for a
CC silver dollar, what about looking for a
dime or two? Starting in 1871, the Carson City
Mint was producing silver dimes, although there
were several years in the run in which these
coins seemed to be of little concern to the
powers that be. At least, the small mintages for
the first couple of years would indicate that.
The first of the CC dimes a collector can obtain
without a major outlay of cold, hard cash is the
1875, and that is simply because the mintage for
that year went up to 4.6 million. That may not
seem like a particularly high number, especially
when viewed it in light of the multi-billion
mintage totals for cents, or the hundreds of
millions for a specific state quarter, but when
you consider that the 1871-CC Seated Liberty
dime had an output of 20,100 coins (and this
wasn't the lowest total from 1871-1874), the
1875-CC seems almost as common as dirt.
Prices for an 1875-CC Seated Liberty dime are
certainly higher than dirt, but not horridly so.
One of these little guys in Fine-12 runs about
$23. In Mint State-60 the price climbs to $190.
That's a lot for a single dime, to be sure, but
not necessarily a crippling amount. Drop all the
way down to Good-4 and the cost plummets to $15.
The Carson City Mint got out of the dimes
business in 1878, but not before producing a
couple more years with high totals. The 1876 saw
more than 8 million CC Seated Liberty dimes, and
the 1877 saw almost as many, ringing in at just
more than 7.7 million.
Both of these dates command pretty much the same
prices I've just quoted. The 1878 commands a bit
more, but looks to be a sleeper, since there
were only 200,000 produced that year. However,
even though there are some pricey CC dimes at
the front of this short series, there are three
easy dates where you can add a bit of Comstock
Lode silver to your collection, and do so
Moving up in denominations, don't forget to stop
at the Seated Liberty 20-cent pieces before
moving on to the quarters. Minted from
1875-1878, there are only two dates that saw
production in Carson City. They are the 1875 and
1876, and most references point out that the
most of the 1876 mintage is believed to have
been melted, making it a rare coin.
The 1875-CC isn't all that common either, with
mintage of 133,290 coins. Since this is far less
than the 1.15 million pieces that came out of
San Francisco that year, expect prices to be
high. In G-4, the current price tag is $385. The
entrance fee to get into the club of those who
own one in MS-60 or higher is considerably
But don't fret about the CC 20-cent pieces being
up there in price. Let's move up to quarters.
Quarters made from Comstock Lode silver came out
of the Carson City from 1870-1878, with a break
during 1874. As with the dimes, the first few
years span the range from scarce to extremely
rare. It's amazing to think that an 1870-CC
Seated Liberty quarter, with a mintage of 8,340
coins, costs $4,500 in G-4.
But, as with the CC dimes, there are a few years
at the tail end of the run that won't cost a
fortune. The 1876-CC quarters were minted to the
tune of 4.9 million, making it a $30 coin in
G-4, a $50 purchase in F-12, and a $325 item in
MS-60. That mint-state number is getting steep,
but a few steps down, into the lower end of
About Uncirculated-50, drops the price to a more
The 1877-CC has a slightly lower mintage, with
4.19 million to its tally. It has essentially
the same prices as the earlier date though.
Two remarkably interesting CC Seated Liberty
quarters are the 1875 and the final year, the
1878. First, the 1878-CC has a total of 996,000
posted to it. Its prices come in at $35 in G-4,
$55 in F-12, and $450 in MS-60.
With only 140,000 to its tally, the 1875-CC its
prices are $75 in G-4, $225 in F-12, and $1,600
The last CC set of coins I want to look at are
half dollars. When it comes to these bigger
Seated Liberty coins, the Carson City Mint again
went to work producing them from 1870-1878, but
seemed to start with a bit more gusto, as even
the leaner totals are somewhat higher than what
we saw for the dimes and quarters.
It was only the 1870, 1874, and 1878 that posted
mintages under 100,000. On the flip side of
things, the 1875 total is just over 1 million,
the 1877 comes in at 1.4 million, and the 1876
takes first place (at least from Carson City)
with 1.956 million pieces. It's these final
three dates that give us some hope of a
dollar that costs less than a small fortune.
The mintages correspond to some more reasonable
prices for the three dates I just mentioned, but
they are also holding a minor bomb shell of a
surprise. For the 1875-CC, 1876-CC, and 1877-CC
Seated Liberty half dollars, the price in G-4 is
about $50, in F-12 it's no higher than $75, and
in MS-60 it's between $600 and $650. The bomb
shell goes off when you look back at the prices
of the quarters I just mentioned as the common
CC dates. They are the same, or slightly more.
Yes, the smaller pieces cost a bit more, which
makes the half dollars seem to me like a
Despite waiting to be sure the Comstock Lode
wasn't just a flash in the pan, the Carson City
Mint was only up and running for nine years, at
least when it comes to making what are referred
to as the minor silver coins of the day. Gold
continued to be coined there into the 1890s, as
did Morgan silver dollars, but silver half
dollars, quarters, 20-cent pieces, and dimes
were bowed off stage in 1878.
The coins today are something of a legacy of the
time. And, importantly, we've just seen that
there are a few dates that just about any
collector can round up when it comes to dimes,
quarters, and half dollars.
The coins I focused on are hardly investor
items, but they do let anyone hold a piece of
the American Wild West in their hand. That's
something to think about when you purchase your
first CC dime, quarter or half dollar.