Franklin D. Roosevelt led the United States through both the “great” economic depression of the early 1930s and World War II, events that defined a generation of Americans. When he died in April 1945, he was mourned not only by citizens who lived through those times but also by much of the free world. In response to this outpouring of sentiment, Treasury Department officials proposed that his portrait be placed on a circulating coin. Coins that were then eligible for change were the cent, the dime, and the half dollar.
The March of Dimes campaign to raise funds for polio research and victim care started during Roosevelt’s first term, and because the President had suffered from polio (although recent research suggests that the illness might instead have been Guillain-Barr syndrome) selection of the dime seemed appropriate. The federal Commission of Fine Arts rejected Chief Engraver John Sinnock’s initial designs, instead recommending an invitational competition. Mint Director Nellie Ross refused that suggestion because the new dime was to be ready for circulation by Roosevelt’s birthday, January 30, which marked the start of the 1946 March of Dimes campaign.
Photos used with permission and courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries
Sinnock made the Commission’s changes but controversy continued to shadow his efforts. The Cold War that followed WWII heightened public fears about the Soviet Union, and a rumor spread that Sinnock’s initials JS, appearing under Roosevelt’s profile, referred to Joseph Stalin. Another criticism, more credible to some, was that Sinnock had copied Roosevelt’s profile from a plaque of the President created by sculptor Selma Burke. However, a comparison reveals that though the profiles are similar they are not identical. Burke’s is of a thinner and more weather-worn Roosevelt, while Sinnock’s shows a robust, statesmanlike Commander-in-Chief.
A left-facing profile of Roosevelt occupies most of the obverse space. Inside the smooth rim in front of Roosevelt’s face is the word LIBERTY. IN GOD WE TRUST in smaller letters is positioned below the chin. The date is squeezed into the space inside the rim and beneath the neck truncation, to the right of the designer’s initials JS, which are just below and oriented parallel to the edge of the neckline.
Completely encircling inside the reverse smooth rim are the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and (slightly larger letters) ONE DIME, the two phrases separated by centered dots. In the center is a flaming torch, flanked by an olive branch to the left and an oak branch to the right. Forming a horizontal line through the base of the torch and both branches is a partitioned E PLURIBUS UNUM, with centering dots separating the three Latin words. Coins were minted at Philadelphia, San Francisco (through 1955), and Denver; S and D mintmarks are placed at the left of the base of the torch.
Collectible Roosevelt dimes are common to very common in all circulated grades from VF up to and including MS68. Prices are low for nearly all dates, though some Premium and Superb Gems are expensive. Prices are higher for 1946 DDO, 1947-S DDR, 1949, 1950-S, 1950-S/D, and 1964SMS (Special Mint Set) coins, the last considerably more expensive. Prooflike examples and coins with Full Bands on the torch are noted in census/ population reports for many dates. Proofs were minted from 1950 through the end of the series and are available in grades up to and including PR70 for many dates. Cameo and Deep Cameo coins are identified and command higher prices, though still moderate until Premium and Superb Gem grades. Doubled Die varieties for 1960 and 1963 proofs have higher prices.
Designer: John R. Sinnock
Circulation Mintage:high 1,357,517,180 (1964-D), low 12,450,181 (1955)
Proof Mintage: 3,950,762 (1964), low 51,386 (1950)
Denomintion: $0.10, Ten cents (10/100)
Diameter: ±17.9 mm; reeded edge
Metal content: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: ±2.5 grams
Varieties:Approximately 30 doubled-die, repunched mintmark, and other style varieties have been identified, on both circulation and proof coins..
Additional Resources :
Coin Encyclopedia: www.ngccoin.com
The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. R.S Yeoman (author), Kenneth Bressett (editor). Whitman Publishing.
A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
United States Coinage: A Study by Type. Ron Guth and Jeff Garrett. Whitman Publishing.
The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Walter Breen. Doubleday.