As one of the key dates of the series, the 1949-S Roosevelt dime is second in rarity only to the Philadelphia Mint’s 1955 mintage of 12,450,181 pieces.
But with an issuance of 13,510,000 pieces, this coin is not exactly “rare”. However, it is one of the more interesting pieces from the series and commands something of a premium over the other, more common, years.
The late forties and early fifties saw a series of significant fluctuations in the number of dimes struck at the San Francisco Mint. The facility’s 1949 mintage was only 38% of the previous (1948) and 66% of the following year (1950). This was due to a short but serious economic recession lasting from November 1948 until October 1949 that resulted in a high unemployment rate, a drop in GDP, and a decline in the quantity of coinage demanded by the economy.
Even by the time the Mint began production of the 1949-S, in the series’ third year, the Roosevelt dime had a number of varieties. On the 1949-S obverse, the word “GOD” in the legend was engraved in a sans serif font instead of the Trumpet Tail font that was also used at the time. The initials of the dime’s designer, Chief Engraver John Sinnock, were larger than the earlier 1946 type. When these obverse variations are combined, the 1949-S dime is delineated as an ODV-002. From 1946 to 1952, San Francisco employed the MMS-002 type Trumpet Tail font mintmark on the reverse design.
The 1949-S also has two different repunched mintmark varieties, the RPM-001 & 002. Since the mintmark was hand punched into the dies by a mint worker after the working dies were cut from the master die, there can be slight positioning errors creating overlapping mintmarks from when the moneyer attempted to fix offset impressions with repeated strikes. The cardinal compass points are used to describe the location of repunched mint marks by using the second mintmark as the descriptor (North – Above / East – Right / South – Below / West – Left). RPM-001 has a slight westerly drift and RPM-002 has a more noticeable northwesterly drift.
Depending on the condition of the host coin, RPM examples of the 1949-S can expect a $5-10 increase in value.
In another milestone for the production of 10-cent pieces, the U.S. Mint installed more powerful rollers which quadrupled the output of 10-cent planchets in 1949. It was also the last year before the Mint resumed production of Proof coinage.
The 1949-S Roosevelt Dime in Today’s Market
While the 1949-S has an estimated average rarity of 1 in all grades, and 2.2 in MS 65 or better, it is one of the only regular strike Roosevelt dimes that commands a numismatic premium over the coins’ base bullion value in the lower range circulated grades. In fact, the 1949-S dime generally realizes about twice the value of other Roosevelt dimes in moderately to lightly worn grades. These mid-range examples (35-55) generally sell for between $5 and $10. According to PCGS Coinfacts, there are an estimated surviving 1,351,000 pieces and approximately 80,000 pieces are in 65 or better for a survival rate of 0.6%. The highest auction price for it was $2,530 in a Goldberg Auctioneers September 2004 sale. More recent sales have peaked at $1,140 for an MS 68 in November 2021.
Most of the obverse design consists of a pensive, left-facing, bust of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In the northwest quadrant, directly in front of Roosevelt’s face, is the standard legend LIBERTY. Below the presidents’ chin, in smaller letters is the motto IN GOD WE TRUST.
Directly below the neck truncation on the bust are the designers’ initials (JS). Placed at a slightly higher line than the motto and to designer’s initials right is the date 1949.
Centered in the reverse design is a flaming torch symbolizing liberty. The torch sits between the olive branch of peace on the left and the oak branch of victory on the right. Split into four parts between the branches and torch is the USA’s traditional motto E PLURIBUS UNUM. Since the words are divided as follows, E PLU / RIB / US U / NUM, there are centering dots between each word. This central design is completely surrounded by the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA at the top and the slightly larger denomination ONE DIME on the bottom. Unlike the dimes struck after 1967 that have the mintmark on the obverse above the date, the 1949 “S” mintmark is placed in the lower reverse at the left of the torch.
The edge of the 1949-S Roosevelt dime is reeded with 118 reeds.
John R. Sinnock became the eighth Chief Engraver of the United States Mint upon George T. Morgan’s death in 1925 and held the position until his own death on May 14, 1947. In addition to being chosen by Mint Director Nellie Ross to design the new Roosevelt dime and Franklin half dollar in 1946, Sinnock is responsible for engraving the 1926 Sesquicentennial American Independence half dollar and gold $2.5 for the United States’ 150th anniversary. Sinnock also helped sculpt the Army’s modern Purple Heart medal in 1932 for Military Merit by soldiers wounded in combat.
|Year Of Issue:||1949|
|Mint Mark:||S (San Francisco)|
|Alloy:||90% Silver, 10% Copper|
|OBV Designer||John R. Sinnock|
|REV Designer||John R. Sinnock|