HomeUS CoinsBarber Dime, 1892-1916 | CoinWeek

Barber Dime, 1892-1916 | CoinWeek

1892-S Barber Dime. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1892-S Barber Dime. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
 

The Mint Finally Updates Its Subsidiary Silver Coinage

The Mint Act of 1890 allowed for the changing of coin designs after 25 years of use, and the dime, quarter, and half dollar were eligible for redesign in 1891.

An initial competition to develop a new design was opened between 10 eminent U.S. sculptors. But when those professional artists presented a list of requirements that included compensation for every entry, whether selected or not, the United States Treasury Department decided instead to open the contest to the general public.

Judges for the entries included United States Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber, Boston engraver Henry Mitchell, and artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens. None of the submitted entries were deemed satisfactory; only two out of about 300 were even awarded even an Honorable Mention.

Mint Director Edward Leech deemed the competition a “wretched failure” and assigned Barber to redesign all the eligible coins for a change, which may have been Barber’s goal all along.

The Artistry of the Barber Designs

Barber’s design is said to be modeled after George T. Morgan’s Liberty on the dollar, though here she faces right rather than left, and her hair is shortened and mostly covered. The reverse is a continuation of James B. Longacre’s “cereal” wreath, used on Liberty Seated dimes since 1860, but with slight modifications to the form and arrangement of the plants comprising the wreath. Despite the brouhaha resulting from the design competition and the rather prosaic presentation of Liberty, Barber did consider the technical needs of the minting process with his design. The Barber Dime (also called Liberty Head dime) has a low relief that was suitable for the efficient production of millions of coins from the high-speed presses of the time, a lesson revisited during the efforts to produce the first High Relief double eagles in 1907, artistic merit notwithstanding. Tens of millions of Barber Dimes were produced in the 25 years of the series, over a half billion in total.

A Barber Dime Stands as One of the Great American Rarities

A couple of well known stories are attached to the type, both related to a dime produced in San Francisco. The 1894-S dime is not only the rarest Barber Dime but also one of the rarest coins in U.S. numismatics. It is believed that only 24 dimes were minted, all as Proofs – apparently on the order of San Francisco Mint Superintendent J. Daggett, for distribution to his high-placed friends.

Today, only 10 examples are traced from the original mintage, and the whereabouts of the others are unknown. A famous (and likely untrue) story surrounds the issue involving Superintendent Daggett, who, it is alleged, gave three of the dimes to his daughter Hallie. Hallie then spent one of the coins for ice cream on her way home from the Mint (the others were purportedly sold by Hallie in the 1950s).

How Much Are Barber Dimes Worth?

In worn circulated condition, Barber Dimes from common dates sell for $8 to $10 USD on sites like eBay. Every Barber Dime is struck in .900 fine silver, and the prevailing spot price of silver can impact the coin’s value.

In higher grades, or for dates that are uncommon or scarce, prices fluctuate. A Details Grade 1895-O, a scarce date, could sell for over $1,000 if it has good eye appeal. A darkly toned example from a common date in MS65 might bring $1,200.

CAC, NGC, and PCGS have combined to grade over 63,000 business strike Barber Dimes, with the majority of the examples being certified by PCGS.

Coins from the Philadelphia Mint are, in general, more frequently listed than pieces from the branch mints, particularly New Orleans and San Francisco. Prices are moderate for most dates through near-Gem and even Gem but are significantly higher for many New Orleans and San Francisco issues.

The series’ key dates are 1895-O, 1896-S, 1897-O, 1901-S, 1903-S, 1893 3 Over 2, and the 1905-O Micro O.

Approximately 10,750 Proof Barber Dimes have been certified, with many classified as Cameo or Deep Cameo. Prices are modest to Gem, expensive finer than that, and modestly higher for Cameo-designated pieces. Deep Cameo pieces in high grade great eye appeal sell for thousands of dollars each at auction.

As we mentioned, the 1894-S Barber Dime, known only as a Proof issue, is a major American rarity and routinely sells for prices well over a million dollars when one of the few known examples appears at auction.

Varieties

Many Barber Dime varieties are known, including the 1893 3 Over 2; the 1905-O, Micro O (from a punch intended for quarters, though the designation seems counterintuitive); date-digit repunching, and other minor die variations.

CoinWeek Exclusive Barber Dime Coverage

In this article originally written in 2007, U.S. coin expert Greg Reynolds discusses the history and legend of the 1894-S dime and gives a condition census of the nine known specimens.

 

 

Design

Obverse:

On the obverse, Liberty faces right, with tightly constrained hair barely visible below a prominent wreath of laurel that surrounds the base of a freedman’s hat; the wreath is tied at the back by a ribbon. Above the forehead is a small band that displays LIBERTY. Inside the denticled rim is the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA at the top (the phrase divided by the the wreath), and the date is at the bottom. The designer’s initial B is toward the back of the base of the neck.

Reverse:

A wreath of two branches of corn, wheat, maple leaves, and oak leaves forms a concentric circle inside a ring of dentils next to the rim. The branches are tied by a ribbon at the bottom. The denomination ONE DIME is in the center, each word on a separate line. Barber Dimes were minted at Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Denver; O, S, and D mint marks are located below the knot of the ribbon bow inside the rim.

Coin Specifications

Barber Dime
Years Of Issue: 1892-1916
Mintage (Circulation): High: 22,220,000 (1907); Low: 440,000 (1895-O)
Mintage (Proof): High: 1,245 (1892); Low: 24 (1894-S; otherwise 425, 1924)
Alloy: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: 2.5 g
Diameter: 17.9 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: Charles E. Barber
REV Designer: Charles E. Barber

 

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Additional Resources

Bowers, Q. David. The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Whitman Publishing.

–. A Guide Book of Barber Silver Coins. Whitman Publishing.

–. A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Whitman Publishing.

Breen, Walter. Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Doubleday.

Feigenbaum, David Lawrence, and John Feigenbaum. The Complete Guide to Certified Barber Coinage. DLRC Press.

Flynn, Kevin. The Authoritative Reference on Barber Dimes. Brooklyn Gallery.

Taxay, Don. The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Arco Publishing.

Yeoman, R.S. and Jeff Garrett (editor). The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. Whitman Publishing.

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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