The American twenty-cent piece was 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, with which it was close in size.
In 1874, the newly elected Senator 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 Mint Director Henry Linderman ordered pattern coins struck. Linderman eventually decided on an obverse similar to that of other silver coins.
Although the coins had a smooth edge, rather than reeded as with other silver coins, the new piece was close to the size of, and immediately confused with, the quarter. 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.
The obverse of the 20-cent coin bears a modified rendition of Christian Gobrecht's design of 13 stars around a figure of Liberty seated on a rock. Gobrecht's design was first used on the silver dollars of 1836. John Hughes and William Barber are credited with modifications made for the design's use on the 20-cent coin. An original design by Barber showing a facing eagle with partially raised wings, three arrows in the eagle's right claw, olive branch in the other was used on the reverse. According to numismatic researchers this design is considered an heraldic faux pas, favoring the arrows of war over the olive branch of peace, but it was copied from the Trade dollar, which Barber also designed.