By Charles Morgan for CoinWeek …..
A common question we receive from readers of CoinWeek relates to the modern rarity 1975 “No S” Roosevelt dime. The coin is so rare that there are only two known examples, making this one of the most elusive and expensive modern coins issued by the United States Mint.
Finding one in a Proof Set would take an incredible amount of luck and given that the last one sold for an astonishing $456,000 at auction in 2019, whoever discovers the third example will likely net a life-changing sum of money to show for it.
But there’s a catch. The rare 1975 “No S” Roosevelt Dime is not the only “No S” dime struck by the Mint in 1975. What makes the rare one different than one you might find in your change jar?
Read on and find out.
Proof Coins vs. Business Strikes
To properly identify a 1975 No S Roosevelt dime, one must first be able to distinguish between a Proof coin that is made for collectors and a business strike that is made for circulation.
The example above is a circulation strike 1975 Roosevelt dime in the typical grade one might find in an original uncirculated roll or in a United States Mint Set.
Circulating coins are the coin struck by the U.S. Mint to be used in commerce. The coins that you spend every day and receive back in change are almost entirely comprised of business strike coins. When brand new, business strike coins will be flashy, lustrous, and convey the full details of the design as imparted by the coin dies. These coins are distributed at face value by the Federal Reserve System and make their way through the economy when private banks order coins. From here, the coins are distributed to bank customers, be they individuals or companies.
Freshly distributed coins gradually lose the visual appearance of newness. Over time, post-Mint damage from the environment, contact with other coins, and contact with oils and dirt from human skin dull a coin’s luster, wear down its details, and impart scratches and other forms of damage. No matter the scarcity or desirability of a coin, these factors impact its value. In the case of modern coins, with so many Mint State examples available, circulation wear and post-Mint damage all but diminish the coin’s numismatic value. As such, any circulated modern-era business strike is likely worth only its face value.
Proof coins are coins produced by the United States Mint using a special process to impart maximum detail onto the struck coin, to present the designer’s art in its full glory for collectors, who pay a premium for the privilege of owning them. Modern Proof issues struck after 1968 are sold in Proof Sets and housed in rugged plastic cases. Each coin will exhibit a deeply-mirrored field, will usually have some degree of frost or cameo on the coin’s raised design elements, and (should) exhibit the S Mintmark that denotes that the coin was struck at the San Francisco Mint.
In a side-by-side comparison, the difference between a Business Strike and a Proof Strike is unmistakable.
In the illustration above, the coin on the left is a circulation strike 1975 Roosevelt dime. This coin has not been circulated and shows no sign of wear, therefore all of the details imparted from the coin die remain clearly visible on this example. Circulation strike 1975 Roosevelt dimes that do not contain mintmarks were struck at the Philadelphia Mint, which produced 585,673,900 dimes that year.
With the exception of a four-year run of billon silver nickels struck during World War II, no U.S. coins produced at the Philadelphia Mint were struck with a P mintmark until the release of the Susan B. Anthony dollar in 1979. Nickels, dimes, quarters, and half dollars followed suit in 1980.
The coin on the right is a typical example of a 1975-S Proof Roosevelt dime. This example has mirrored fields and frosted devices. It carries the S mintmark of San Francisco. Any Proof coin struck by the San Francisco Mint that does not have an S mintmark was struck that way in error and is potentially valuable.
But I Know I Found a 1975 “No S” Dime… What Do I Do?
Here is where we separate fact from fantasy. It would be nice to imagine ourselves finding a rare 1975 “No S” Roosevelt dime under our sofa cushion or in a jar of change, but the reality is one would have a much better chance winning the Powerball than finding a coin that has been hunted down by collectors and coin dealers for more than 40 years with only two examples to show for it.
Finding any great rarity and bringing it to market requires a few things, the most important being authentication.
The coin industry supports a small number of For-Profit grading services, the two most popular (and the two we recommend) are Florida-based Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) and California-based Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). Both services have the professional experience necessary to properly identify a genuine 1975 “No S” Roosevelt dime and the integrity to properly handle and return your coin. Having a coin certified has a cost that can be significant due to the liability and value of the coin, and working with a professional numismatist who is an authorized dealer is recommended.
Always protect yourself by checking references before committing to work with any dealer and make sure you have a written agreement with the dealer that explicitly lays out the terms under which you are working with them regarding your rare coin.
In the event that you discover the third 1975 “No S” Roosevelt dime, your best option to sell it would be through a major auction company. A professional dealer will be able to help you negotiate the terms of your consignment and give you an opinion on what the market value of your coin might be so that you can decide on what is the best course of action for you and your coin.
Often when we field calls concerning coins like this, the caller is excited and absolutely sure about what they have found but quickly loses interest once we spell out the steps necessary for them to authenticate and market their coin. There is no bag of money on the other end of the phone and, as we have stated, most people confuse a business strike 1975 dime–worth about 10 cents–with the rare Proof issue (no doubt due to amateur coin videos published on YouTube, or incomplete articles published elsewhere).
We hope this guide helps you, and even if we’ve bummed you out a little bit about your new find, do know that coin collecting is an interesting and rewarding hobby and we’d love it if you stay awhile.