The American twenty-cent piece is a coin struck from 1875 to 1878, but only for collectors in the final two years. Proposed by Nevada Senator John P. Jones, it proved a failure due to confusion with the quarter dollar, to which it was close in both size and value.
In 1874, the newly elected Jones began pressing for a twenty-cent piece, which he stated would alleviate the shortage of small change in the Far West. The bill passed Congress, and U.S. Mint Director Henry Linderman ordered pattern coins struck. Linderman eventually decided on an obverse and reverse similar to that of other silver coins. The obverse shows the image of a Seated Liberty, designed by Christian Gobrecht in 1836 and re-engraved by William Barber. The right-facing eagle on the reverse is near-identical to the one which Barber had rendered for the trade dollar, which had debuted in 1873. The eagle carries the arrows of war in its right, or dominant claw, and the olive branch of peace in the left, in heraldry preferring war over peace.
Although the coins have a smooth edge, rather than reeded (milled) as with other silver coins, the new piece was close to the size of, and immediately confused with, the quarter dollar. Adding to the bewilderment, the obverse, or "heads", sides of both coins were almost identical. After the first year, in which over a million were minted, there was little demand, and the denomination was abolished in 1878. At least a third of the total mintage was later melted by the government. Numismatist Mark Benvenuto called the twenty-cent piece "a chapter of U.S. coinage history that closed almost before it began".
Within a toothed rim, the obverse of the coin shows the symbolic figure of Liberty clad in a flowing dress and seated upon a rock. In her left hand, she holds a Liberty pole surmounted by a Phrygian cap (a type of cap which in Ancient Rome was worn by freed slaves). With her right hand, she supports the Union Shield, which has thirteen vertical stripes, white and red, with a blue horizontal bar on top. The colours are represented by heraldic hatching (thin lines indicating the colour - horizontal stripes for blue, vertical for red, no stripes for white). Across the shield, a diagonal banner inscribed with the word LIBERTY.
Around above, thirteen stars representing the 13 original states in the Union.
In the exergue below the figure, the date of issue: [year].
The main device on the reverse is an eagle, standing, with open wings, looking to right. From the eagle's perspective, it holds a bundle of three arrows in its right (dominant) talon, and an olive branch in its left talon - indicating a preference of war over peace.
Around above, the name of the country: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Separated from that by two six-pointed stars, around below the value and denomination in words: * TWENTY CENTS *.