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1879 Seated Liberty dime affordable thanks to hoard

NN1226itema_bw.jpg Hoards can be interesting and fun. They also play an important role, as a hoard of even a common date from a century ago can produce a new and added supply of a coin that many might want, but are unable to afford.

The best hoards are ones involving a date that might otherwise be tough. That applies to the 1879 Seated Liberty dime, which had a mintage of just 15,100 pieces. The low mintage at the time might well have been a result of the required Morgan dollar production, which had begun the previous year. NN1226itemb_bw.jpgSilver dollars are tough coins to make and in the decade that would follow, there were small mintages of most other denominations. That can be traced to the fact that the mints were producing Morgan dollars in large numbers as required by law.

In his book,  American Coin Treasures and Hoards, Q. David Bowers tells a story about a hoard of 1879 Seated Liberty dimes that he purchased from Springfield, Mass., dealer Howard E. MacIntosh, who operated the Tatham Stamp & Coin Co., which sold starter kits.

It appears that large numbers of coins not generally considered to be starter kit material were purchased. Bowers recounts, ?At one time in the 1950s, the writer purchased about 300 scarce 1879 Seated Liberty dimes from MacIntosh, each coin being a proof-like gem.?

The 1879 dimes were not the only coin in quantity owned by MacIntosh, as after his death, the inventory produced bank-wrapped rolls of Indian Head cents and early Lincolns, as well as Rhode Island and Boone commemoratives and many early 20th-century proof coins.

The 1879 Seated Liberty dimes had to have been saved back then and that is surprising. There was some hoarding then, but it was not dimes. At least one collector of the day tried to hoard low-mintage gold dollars and there is some evidence of 1880 hoarding in small numbers of $3 gold pieces.

A hoard of 1879 dimes, however, is a  different matter. While the 1879 was low mintage, it was not the sort of mintage seen in the gold pieces hoarded about the same time. Just why someone would have thought to hoard the 1879 Seated Liberty dime is an interesting question.

There are a few silver coin hoards that have been reported from the late 1870s,  but they are not like the 1879, as they tend to involve what would have been common dates like an 1877-CC quarter. The 1879 Seated Liberty dime definitely stands out, as it was a coin with some very real numismatic potential.

If you look for evidence of the coins, Bowers says it can be found. At Professional Coin Grading Service, they report about 220 examples of the 1879,  including a surprising 46 in MS-66 ad 20 in MS-67.

At Numismatic Guaranty Corporation,  the total for the 1879 in Mint State is about 140, but again the numbers in MS-66 are high at 37, along with 26 in MS-67 and three in MS-68.

The numbers in Mint State are not unusual for a dime of the type and that may be why the 1879 still commands premiums, which you might expect with its mintage. In MS-60 it is $675, while an MS-65 currently lists for $1,750.

The prices are lower than would be the case were it not for the hoard. The real impact may be that if you want a truly extraordinary Seated Liberty 1879, they are available thanks to a hoard purchased back in the 1950s by Q. David Bowers.

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