Listed in first place in the third edition of the 100 Greatest U.S. Modern Coins, the 1975 No S proof Roosevelt dime is one of the rarest issues in all of American coinage. Only two examples are known to collectors today and they have been tightly held by just a few owners in the 40+ years since their discovery. Heritage Auctions is pleased to offer the finest-known example of this famous modern rarity in just its second auction appearance.
Until 1996, all U.S. coinage dies were produced at the Philadelphia Mint. The dies were then shipped to the various branch mints as needed, complete with the appropriate mint mark. Proof coins were struck at the San Francisco Mint in 1975 and all 2,845,450 proof 1975 dimes should have featured the S mintmark. However, the San Francisco Mint also struck 71,991,900 business-strike dimes with no mintmark that year, to help the Philadelphia Mint provide the 585,673,900 coins needed for circulation. There is no way to differentiate the business-strike coins that were struck at San Francisco from those struck at Philadelphia since they were all struck from dies without a mintmark.
According to an excellent article by Bill Gibbs in the September 1, 2011 edition of Coin World, while all the dies were manufactured in Philadelphia, the proof dies were actually polished to impart the proof finish in San Francisco. It seems that one of the dies with no mintmark, intended for business-strike production, was accidentally polished up, along with the proof dies, and used to strike a small run of proof dimes before the mistake was noticed. The San Francisco Mint has been tight-lipped on this subject, but quality control must have been excellent that year, as it seems that only two No S dimes escaped detection and were released with the regular proof sets.
Any other No S dimes that were struck must have been detected and destroyed before leaving the Mint.
One lucky California collector ordered five proof sets from the United States Mint in 1975. Miraculously, she noticed that two of the sets contained proof dimes with no mintmark. She submitted one of the coins to Coin World’s Collectors’ Clearinghouse in July 1977 and later had both coins certified by ANACS. ANACS announced the certification of one of the coins in January 1978 and Coin World published the first article about the coins in its February 22 edition, causing much excitement in the numismatic community. Collectors have been diligently examining their 1975 proof sets ever since, but so far no more 1975 No S dimes have been discovered. The original owner sold both proof sets to Bloomington, Illinois coin dealer Fred Vollmer, the first in early 1978, and the second in 1979.
Vollmer, who specialized in the various No S proof issues that have appeared over the years, marketed the first set to a list of collectors who had purchased proof NO S dimes from 1968 and 1970 from him in the past. An Ohio collector purchased the set (the same one that was submitted to Coin World) on an installment basis for $18,200. Vollmer later told the collector he had another phone offer for the set only 10 minutes after he committed to sell the coins to him. The Ohio collector still owns that set and the 1975 No S dime has been certified PR66 by PCGS.
Vollmer sold the second set, which contained the present coin, to another private collector in 1980 for $38,550. That set later passed to prominent dealer Ken Goldman, who consigned it to the ANA Rarities Night Auction (Stack’s Bowers, 8/2011), where it realized a staggering $349,600. The PR68 PCGS 1875 No S Roosevelt dime has remained in the present collection ever since until now, when it is being featured in Heritage’s September 5-8 Long Beach US Coins Signature Auction.
As mentioned, the coin offered here is a stunning PR68 example, with fully struck design elements and deeply reflective fields on both sides. The virtually pristine surfaces are blanketed in attractive shades of cerulean-blue and pale jade toning. Overall eye appeal is terrific. This coin is the finest of only two known specimens. Registry Set enthusiasts will find no suitable substitute for this remarkable specimen, once this lot has passed. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire one of the rarest issues in the U.S. federal series.