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Buy when clad dimes are out of hobby favor

Gre0918a.jpgIf you are looking for low prices and high growth potentials, the time to enter a market is when it is slow and sleepy. In recent years, that area that best qualifies might just be dimes, especially the clad dimes produced since 1965.

While the hobby is madly scrambling to buy gold First Spouse coins from the Mint, it might be time to make a quiet and dignified examination of clad dimes, which might be described as a backwater.

Gre0918b.jpgOnce silver was removed from the dime after 1964, interest in Roosevelt dimes has not been strong. In fact there were even reports the proof-only San Francisco dimes found in proof sets since 1968 had been so weak in terms of price and interest that they might well have been used in promotions or even spent. That may not be the case, but the mere thought of spending proof-only coins says a great deal about the lack of interest.

One of the things that traditionally happens when an area of the market is slow is that people make a very incorrect assumption. That assumption is that the coin in question has always had a limited popularity and it always will. Such assumptions are frequently incorrect as coins tend to have cycles and just because dimes have not been active recently does not mean that has always been the case or that it will continue.

Gre0918c.jpgThe clad dime is particularly easy to overlook because in the case of the dimes produced since 1965 you have not only a denomination that is not currently active, but also more modern examples of that denomination and current issues are traditionally not very active. In fact, there is a long history of many basically overlooking the current issues in favor of older issues. There is nothing wrong with that, although many times people end up wishing they had paid more attention to the coins they could easily have acquired. In fact, it could safely be said that in many cases coins rise to surprising prices simply because those who had a chance to acquire them failed to do so.

Gre0918d.jpgGoing back in history we find that perhaps the first real sensation in terms of public interest came in 1857 with the debut of the new and significantly smaller cent. There had been slight reductions in gold and silver coins prior to 1857, but they were not really noticed by most. The new cent, however, was hard to miss and it caused a quick rise in interest in the idea of collecting the old large cents by date. Of course at the same time there were many awfully good Seated Liberty coins that they were ignoring in favor of older circulated large cents, but that is typical of what so often happens.

Much the same was seen in 1916, which has to be considered one of the best years in history if you wanted to get great new coins with the 1916 Standing Liberty quarter, 1916-D Mercury dime and others, yet Q. David Bowers in his research could find only a couple dealers with working inventories of the 1916 quarter. The reason was simple in that the dealers of the time simply did not bother to stock current coins, probably figuring their customers if they wanted the new issues could easily get them and it was probably a sound business decision at the time even though coins like the 1916 Standing Liberty quarter and 1916-D dime were obviously going to be very good some day.

The situation in 1916 might seem unusual, but back in the 1950s there was much the same thing in coin shops across the country. Few if any bothered with Washington quarters unless they were the key-date 1932-D or 1932-S. Fewer still worked with Franklin halves. In fact, the number of coins found in any shop from the prior 10 years was small unless they were in proof sets
 Once again it was simply a situation where there was probably little or no demand. I certainly wasn?t clamoring for the higher denominations of current design because they tied up so much money. But what if I had managed to put away what could have turned out to be MS-69 1959, 1960, or 1961 half dollars for face value?

Gre0918e.jpgCertainly when the first clad dime made its appearance in 1965, it was likely to be similar. Roosevelt dimes had not been especially popular in the 1950s and early 1960s as they were new. With Mercury dimes still in circulation, to many collectors the Mercury dime seemed like a much better and more interesting choice if you were going to collect dimes. Even though you were unlikely to be able to complete a Mercury dime collection from circulation, you could probably come close and that was much more interesting than Roosevelt dimes,  which could probably be completed in an afternoon as no date was challenging.

Gre0918f.jpgOf course there were other factors working against interest in the Roosevelt dime and especially the Roosevelt dime containing no silver. The removal of silver did not help their popularity, but what really hurt the Roosevelt dime and collecting in general is that mintmarks were also removed in a deliberate attempt by officials to discourage collecting.

Without mintmarks, all mintages were combined,  making the totals huge and that discourages anyone from saving examples.

There was also an underlying hostility to the clad alloy. ?Clad trash? was a phrase heard a lot at the time.

When the denomination is already unpopular, it basically means few if any are saving examples and that was the case in 1965 as the only dimes being saved were made of 90 percent silver.

 In addition. the regular proof and mint sets were not offered from 1965-1967 and that probably hurt the supply of dimes and other denominations being saved during the period as the so-called Special Mint Sets that were offered had far lower sales than would normally be expected with the proof and mint set combination.

In addition, like the other steps the lack of proof and mint sets helped to discourage collecting overall as did the fact that with silver coins rapidly disappearing from circulation there was no longer much interest in checking change. The assumption was that except for a stray 90 percent silver coin, there was nothing of interest to be found.

The situation began to change in 1968 when mintmarks were resumed as were proof and mint sets, but it had gotten clad dimes off to a simply terrible start with collectors and they have not really recovered even today. It is hard to believe that attitudes shift so slowly that 42-year-old epithets still seem to ring true.

The same was true of other denominations like the quarter and half dollar but in recent years we have seen both half dollars and quarters soar in price even including dates in the 1990s. The likely reason is that there are simply no supplies in MS-65 and above. That same situation is not only possible but likely in the case of dimes, but so far there have been very few price movements of any size making it possible to speculate as to when the dime will have it’ turn for price increases.

Certainly the mintages do not encourage many to predict a bright future for clad Roosevelt dimes. The 1965, 1966 and 1967 are still suffer ing from having no mintmarks and mintages in the billions. The 1965 for example is $10 for an uncirculated roll, which is double the face value after 42 years and at $10 per roll there is certainly very little profit potential to encourage a dealer to even stock a roll. While today?s price is up from $8  back in 1998, it is still not much incentive, especially for dealers.

One positive change in 1968 in addition to the return of mintmarks and special sets was that the dime as well as the quarter and half dollar in the proof set were proof-only issues from San Francisco. That opened up a new world of possibilities, although at least initially collectors were probably not certain how to view the new proof-only dimes as there had been nothing like them in the 20th century as prior to 1968. Most proof-only dates were quite scarce and expensive.

Over the years collectors have adjusted to the idea of yearly proof-only San Francisco issues and while still lagging behind most other denominations that has seen perhaps the most intense activity for clad Roosevelt dimes.
The leader is the 1995-S, which was just $2.60 in 1998, but today the 1995-S stands at $20 in Proof-65 and that price has been stable for some time.

Other dates have also moved in price, such as the 1997-S, which was $3.50 in the late 1990s, but which is $11 today and a number of other lower mintage dates like the 1996-S and 1998-S certainly bear watching.
In fact, it may not even be the lower mintage proof-only San Francisco dimes that have potential as the suspicion is very real that with prices of mostly $1-$4, many of the proof-only San Francisco dimes are not being saved in a careful manner, but rather being included in promotional offers simply because when a set is broken up, the dime is frequently one of the least expensive coins in the set with all the attention being centered on the upper denominations.

If this turns out to be true, some proof- only dimes may prove to be less available than we expect, which would almost certainly result in higher prices as has been seen in the case of some dates, like the 1993-S, which had a mintage of over 2.6 million, but which has moved from $2.85 to $7 in recent years. Others like the 1992-S have moved less dramatically, but the potential for increases is certainly real and perhaps even better than the mintages would suggest.

We have also seen a few movements in business strikes, but the emphasis for now at least remains on the word ?few.? For the first time in 1980 the Roosevelt dime carried a ?P? mintmark for coins produced at Philadelphia. In 1982 a few coins were discovered without a mintmark, making the no-mintmark 1982 a simple error, but an interesting one and the no-mintmark 1982 has remained very relatively stable in price, though it has moved from $200 in MS-65 a couple of years ago to $300, showing the potential for high prices in truly interesting clad dimes.

As it worked out, 1982 was a very busy year for collectors and would also result in the first of two years of better dates. It must be remembered that 1982 saw the introduction of modern commemoratives with the 1982 George Washington half dollar and budget cuts  at the Mint saw no mint sets produced in 1982 and 1983.

While the yearly mint set does not get much attention, in fact they serve as a reserve supply of Mint State examples of all denominations for a specific year. Even a sale of just 1 million sets can make a substantial difference in the ability of dealers to find new supplies of a specific date, but for 1982 and 1983 there is no such reserve supply. Moreover, at the time with the exciting introduction of new commemoratives there was not the incentive to use the money you might normally use to buy rolls to save as those funds might well have seemed better spent on new commemoratives.

The amount of saving of modern coins by the roll or bag is suspect under the best of circumstances, but in 1982 and 1983 there was simply no good reason to be saving large numbers of the coins of those years. It is reflected in the prices today. The 1982-P Roosevelt dime has been the leader with a price of $1.50 in MS-65 in 1998 now being $8.50. Uncirculated rolls of the 1982-P, which are always in demand have also done well, with the $65 price in 1998 rising to $130 in a couple of years and then rising again to a current $250 listing. With such increases, anyone lucky enough to own a roll has no real incentive to sell, with prices constantly rising and that keeps the 1982-P constantly near the top of dealer want lists.

The other dates involved have moved in price, but not as dramatically. The 1982-D was 65 cents in MS-65 in the late 1990s but it moved first to $2 and now $3 while an uncirculateds roll, which was $12.50, jumped to $50 and now $60.

The 1983-P has also been moving significantly, jumping from under $1 to $7 in MS-65, though the latter price is down from $8. An uncirculated roll has moved from $39 in 1998 to $185 and then to $240, making it a serious challenger to the 1982-P as the key date of the group. The 1983-D has lagged behind, but it too in MS-65 has seen a price of less than $1  become $2.50.

The price increases don?t seem impressive when compared to jumps in gold and silver-fueled coinage, that argues for a good look now.

There are other recent Roosevelt dimes that have potential and we have seen a few slight increases in the case of dates like the 1990-P, 1991-D and 1995-D, but especially both the Philadelphia and Denver dimes of 1986. While these dates have shown some signs of moving, the recent price increases in the case of half dollars and quarters suggest that if the Roosevelt dime starts to move in price virtually all dates will see sometimes large price increases.

In a somewhat unique class we find the 1996-W, which was a special creation to mark the 50th anniversary of the design. It was a somewhat unusual idea. The 50th anniversary of the Lincoln cent was celebrated with a reverse change in 1959. Not a thing marked the same anniversary for the Washington quarter and Jefferson nickel. Of course, in 1996 the country was flooded with special offers from a Mint that had decided that making coins was a very profitable activity. A special dime, which was the first one ever produced at West Point was another way to keep collectors happy with another coin.

Collectors had a lot of other uses for their money in 1996, including a huge Olympic program, which might help to explain why the 1996-W ended up with sales of just 1,457,949, which is actually well below a date like the 1995-S.

The 1996-W has been a bit slow to reach levels we might expect. Back in 1998 it was just $7 in MS-65. Recently, however, it has jumped to $25 and realistically it still compares favorably both in mintage and price to a date like the 1995-S.

In fact, potential might well be the word to describe clad dimes today. In fairness, dimes are still not a very active part of the market. The price increases seen so far tend to be the usual suspects. What we have seen in other denominations is that while sometimes spearheaded by the usual suspect dates, virtually every date has increased in MS-65 and oftentimes some of the largest increases have been from dates that are normally taken totally for granted. If the same thing happens with clad dimes, there could be a lot of surprises.

Some might question whether dimes will follow half dollars and quarters to new and higher prices. The question is a fair one as there are no guarantees. It is, however, a case where in some respects there is little choice as the supplies just as in the case of the quarter and half dollar are suspect. In addition, at today?s prices there is really very little incentive for dealers to even carry dimes. When prices are a couple dollars or less in MS-65, there is very little profit in stocking clad dimes. Price increases, however, might change things dramatically and with a little increased interest in the denomination , those increases could prove to be dramatic.

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