The 1892-S Barber dime is an historic coin and a tougher than expected one as well. In fact, there is a pretty good chance that the 1892-S would be much more costly than it is at present were it not for the traditional lack of demand for Barber issues.
The intentions when it came to bringing the United States new coin designs in 1892 were certainly good. Officials had consulted Congress and seen a law passed along the way, which allowed the secretary of the Treasury to change designs any time after the design had been in use 25 years. They were safe on that front as the Seated Liberty designs were close to 50 years in use.
Things did not go as well with the artists. A leading group of artists was invited to submit designs. They basically declined unless changes were made in the competition. It looked like the tail wagging the dog to officials so that idea was dropped in favor of a national competition, but that also did not work as there were no winning designs.
Not wanting to have the first U.S. coins in history using stick figures, the next plan was to simply have Charles Barber the chief engraver make the designs. He did. No one, however, was all that excited by the results. That would be a factor in the lack of collecting of Barber dimes, quarters and half dollars for years.
There were certainly other factors that resulted in minimal interest in the new dimes and other denominations back in 1892. It was no small factor that the lowest of the new denominations was a dime. People did not routinely have dime collections back in 1892 as a dime was a reasonable amount of money. Those who did have dime collections were probably only collecting by date, which would mean normally a Philadelphia example of the date and not a San Francisco.
There were other influences as well. The national economy was not strong, and that was hurting collecting. There was another new issue that year. The Columbian Exposition half dollar, the first commemorative, was getting more attention than the new Barber coins.
The mintages in 1892 were high in the case of the main facility in Philadelphia, reasonable in the case of New Orleans and relatively low when talking about San Francisco, as its total dime production in 1892 would be 990,710 pieces.
As it turned out, the lack of saving was not limited to 1892. There were no floods of new dime collectors for years so an 1892-S would just continue to circulate to the point of being so worn some were almost certainly retired and destroyed. If you don?t believe the 1892-S was not pulled from circulation consider the fact that the ?New York Subway Hoard? had 45 complete sets of Barber dimes.
That said, in Mint State the 1892-S is tough as is seen in its prices of $425 in MS-60 and $4,000 in MS-65. In fact, the 1892-S is not that available in MS-65 as is seen by the Professional Coin Grading Service total of just 10 examples in MS-65. At the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation the total in MS-65 is just 6 pieces.
No matter how you look at it a total of just 16 examples of the first Barber dime from San Francisco is a small total and would probably result in a much higher price were it not for the lack of demand. Even with the lack of demand the total seems likely to produce higher prices in the future. In fact, in any grade, the 1892-S seems very reasonable today and like any good sleeper the only thing lacking is a reason for it to start moving to higher prices.