By Jim Bisognani – Numismatic Guaranty Corporation ……..
70th Anniversary Roosevelt Dimes offer variety and value. Golden nostalgia ahead in 2016.
As winter slowly relinquishes its grip, and most of the country is enjoying the transition to spring, New England (it seems) is always a naysayer.
I woke up the first full day of spring to be greeted with white frosted window panes and nearly a foot of unwelcome snow. I was quite dismayed, not only because I had to shovel off the roof once again, but also because the ground had been completely bare before and the sight of tiny buds and tabs of green grass was such a welcome vision. Luckily, I was afforded an enjoyable early spring getaway, spending the week before in sunny Sarasota, Florida, working out of the main office of NGC. Happily, as I write this article the ground here is again bare and with the driving rain, green will soon supplant the dry hard brown ground which winter had left behind.
Spring is also the time in the numismatic community when collectors seem to rise and become invigorated in their hobby. Both regional and national shows are on more collectors’ agendas as travel plans are not often derailed by Mother Nature this time of year.
There will be a lot of excitement as well as nostalgia in 2016. The United States Mint will recognize the 100th anniversary of A.W. Weinman’s Mercury Dime and Walking Liberty Half Dollar along with Hermon A. MacNeil’s Standing Liberty Quarter. The 1916 classically-themed trio will be getting a golden makeover for their centennial. Each of the marvelous coins will be struck in 24 karat gold — one-tenth ounce, one-quarter ounce and one-half ounce respectively.
As of this writing, only the Mercury Dime has been given an official release date, listed on the US Mint’s website as April 21, 2016. No pricing information has been given. Both the quarter dollar and half dollar are slated for later on in the year and are only listed as “to be announced.”
All coins will be struck at the West Point facility.
I can’t help but wax nostalgic as I think of these beautiful coins and how early on in my collecting career I was actually able to pick up an occasional Mercury Dime or Walker out of circulation. Yes, I know that dates me.
Growing up I think all young numismatists excitedly anticipated the first of the year waiting to see when the first dated coin of the New Year would actually appear in circulation.
Now over five decades later, I still take joy in that annual exercise. This year was a pleasant surprise.
I wasn’t picking up a new coin from circulation from my native New Hampshire but it was during my visit to Florida that I was given a trio of Lincoln Cents and two sharply-struck Roosevelt Dimes all dated 2016-P in change. I think this was the first time I actually extracted coins from the New Year in the month of February! I quickly placed the coins in a large size vinyl flip and made note of the date — February 29, 2016.
As I was looking at the coins the other day it dawned on me that the Roosevelt Dime, first released in 1946, is the only dime of my generation and the only dime design most living Americans have ever known. It is the only standard circulating coin that has not seen any modification in its design, either obverse or reverse in its 70-year existence.
The Roosevelt Dime series was the first complete set of coins that I ever owned. I recall spending $7.50 for the “Roosy” set, 1946 through 1968 all housed in a blue Whitman cardboard holder at a local coin show in Portsmouth New Hampshire. That was in the summer of 1969. Yes, I still have that set!
Today assembling the set is still affordable. Aside from the no S proofs, there are no real stoppers in the series. For both young and old this is an easy, fun and affordable venture. Full Gem MS 65 or better coins are highly recommended. The regular circulation strike key is the 49-S. The NGC US Coin Price Guide gives MS 65 examples a $55 valuation. The remainder of the silver coins (1946 to 1964) are only going to set you back on average between $15 – $20 in that grade.
If there’s one knock on the Roosevelts it is that it’s rather bland and there is nothing outwardly really exciting about the series… but I like the design and appearance of the coin. Of course, the history and tribute to FDR’s remarkable presidential accomplishments and his battle with polio–“The March of Dimes”–are all quite inspiring for us to remember.
For numismatists of all levels, Roosevelt Dimes offer several exciting collecting options. For some collectors, the appeal is finding the ultimate fully struck or FT (“Full Torch”) examples. For others, it’s collecting the series in Proof format only (from 1950-to date). More traditional factions are content to secure bright white Mint State coins.
For me, one of the exciting collecting opportunities within the Roosevelt series is locating colorful coins. I enjoy attractively-toned coins, I think everyone does. Virtually all of the silver Roosevelt Dimes were also issued in Government mint sets. These mint sets of nearly 70 years ago are not like today’s sonically sealed offerings. They were instead issued in simple cardboard holders, whose material qualities helped to naturally accelerate the toning process. This is why many of the coins from the cardboard mint holders exhibit dynamic peripheral toning.
As one of the smallest silver coins, Roosevelts were often treated to a more vibrant appearance. It’s not unusual to find Roosevelt Dimes wearing concentric blues, gold, purples, amber or sea greens! Pricing is not that exorbitant either. Of course Technicolor beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I have been able to pick up blazing white coins in NGC slabs or in stapled 2×2 cardboard holders for modest if any premiums. I have rounded up numerous Roosevelt mint set coins from the 1950s that are quite colorful, mostly MS 65 or better, in the $25-$50 price range.
Conversely, many of the finest known Roosevelts command huge premiums – take the 1948-D Graded NGC MS 68 FT that will appear in the upcoming Stack’s Bowers Baltimore Auction. This coin has a spectacularly toned obverse and is tied for the finest known, with only one other NGC MS 68 FT. For reference, one of the five graded as NGC MS 68 FT sold last summer and it realized $2,233.
Personally the eye appeal on the upcoming Stack’s Bowers specimen is superior, certainly worthy of the star designation!
So if you happen to be in the “Old Line State” taking in the Baltimore Whitman Coin and Collectibles Expo, allot some time and bring a new or aspiring collector with you. Introduce them to this great hobby and perhaps get them starting with a Roosevelt dime collection as I did nearly 47 summers ago!
Remember, scouring the bourse is bound to yield some favorable acquisitions at very reasonable prices!
Until next time, happy collecting!
Jim Bisognani has written extensively on US coin market trends and values and was the market analyst and writer for a major pricing guide for many years. He currently frequently attends major coin shows and auctions.
NGC-Certified Roosevelt Dimes Currently Available on eBay