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Unique Proof 1891-O Seated Liberty Dime Among New Orleans Special Strikes

By Mike Byers for Mint Error News ……

This is the only known 1891-O Seated Liberty Dime struck in Proof. Authenticated and certified by NGC as Proof 66, this unique branch mint Proof is a world-class rarity. It is listed in The Official 2024 Mega Red Book of U.S. Coins, Deluxe 9th Edition on page 422 and described as extremely rare.

This dime has been recently reholdered in the latest NGC holder with an enhanced label, better visibility and a higher-security hologram.

The New Orleans Mint.
The New Orleans Mint.

The United States Mint in New Orleans has one of the most interesting histories of all the mints. At one point, it was taken over and the United States of America no longer held control of it due to the Civil War. The New Orleans Mint officially became a branch mint on March 3, 1835, and first produced coins in 1838, staying in operation until 1861 when the war started. After the period of Reconstruction, it began operations again in 1879 and continued until 1909.

The New Orleans Mint resumed striking Seated Liberty Dimes in 1891, which had not been struck since 1860. This created a lot of publicity – which included a New Orleans Times-Picayune article published on July 26, 1891. This article reported the resumption of the silver dime production:

“The United States mint is now engaged in coining one million dimes a month. The dime banks and other causes have created a scarcity and Uncle Sam has ordered his money factories to the rescue. There is considerable demand for the dimes. They are the first coins of that smallness the mint has made, and the same presses with which the dollars were coined are used, the ingots being also of similar size. The new dies reached here about the 1st of the month, and the dimes commenced to roll out on the 5th.

The mint has on hand the bullion representing 3,000,000 trade dollars, shipped from the Philadelphia mint about two months ago, and the 863,000 ounces of uncurrent money sent from various sub-treasuries; so that there is no lack of silver to keep the presses going.”

1891-O Liberty Seated Dime as a Branch Mint Proof. Image: Mike Byers.
1891-O Liberty Seated Dime as a Branch Mint Proof. Image: Mike Byers.

This was the only Proof silver dime struck by the New Orleans Mint in 1891. It was unknown to Walter Breen and was not recorded in his Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Proof Coins (1987). It is widely believed that this Proof striking commemorated the New Orleans Mint in 1891.

This unique proof 1891-O Seated Liberty Dime is not recorded on numismatist Gerry Fortin’s website (seateddimevarieties.com), but he researched this dime and determined that:

“The obverse is unlisted and the reverse is Reverse P. The obverse die is perfect, with no trace of date repunching, no clash marks, and no die cracks. There is no evidence of die lapping on the obverse. Similarly, the reverse die is perfect, also with no repunching of the mintmark, no clash marks, no die cracks, and no evidence of die lapping. The mintmark is close to the bow knot, and tilted sharply to the left.”

A “perfect” and “unlisted” die was used to strike this dime. It is in Gem Proof condition with exceptional eye appeal and original toning. It has a full strike with full detail since it was struck on a large press setup for silver dollar coinage. This piece was most likely struck as a special Proof presentation piece, prior to striking regular dime coinage at New Orleans on Sunday, July 5, which was the first day reported.

There are also two known 1891-O Seated Liberty Quarters, both certified by specimens by NGC, which are obviously special strikes as well. Both of these are valued at and have traded for six figures.

1891-O Liberty Seated Dime in Proof, reverse.

The New Orleans Mint, throughout its history, struck unique Proof and specimen coinage. A few examples are the classic 1838-O Proof Cap Bust Half Dollar, the 1839-O Proof Cap Bust Half Dollar, the 1844-O Proof $5 Eagle and Proof $10 Eagle, the 1895-O Proof Morgan Dollar, and the 1883-O Proof Proof Morgan Dollar.

This unique 1891-O Branch Mint Proof Seated Liberty Dime is in a category by itself; the closest comparison would be the extremely rare 1894-S Branch Mint Proof Barber Dime. Although there is not any official documentation or Mint records pertaining to the striking of this unique Proof dime, not every unique Proof coin struck at the New Orleans branch mint or at any other U.S. Mint has official records or documentation. Although not nearly as famous as the 1894-S Branch Mint Proof Dime, of which 24 were struck, the 1891-O Branch Mint Proof Dime merits comparison to the 1894-S Branch Mint Proof Dime that sells for seven figures.

Many ultra-rare coins struck by the Mint in Philadelphia and in the branch mints are unique or produced in extremely small numbers under clandestine circumstances. A few examples are the 1804 silver dollar and the 1913 Liberty Head nickels. Other examples include the gold Indian Head cents and the unique 1913 Liberty Head nickel struck in gold. Although the 1894-S Barber Dime is documented in U.S. Mint records, there is still controversy surrounding the purpose for striking these. Additionally, many branch mint Proofs and specimens are controversial and lack official U.S. Mint documentation.

This unique 1891-O Branch Mint Seated Liberty Dime combines rarity, quality and history and belongs in an advanced collection of Seated Liberty coinage or unique coinage from the United States Mints.

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Mike Byers
Mike Byershttps://minterrornews.com/
Mike Byers is the Owner, Publisher and Editor of Mint Error News Magazine and the Mint Error News website that was founded in 2003. In 2009, Mike Byers published his first book, World's Greatest Mint Errors, which received the NLG Award for Best World Coin Book.

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