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Low demand clouds Philadelphia Barber dimes

It?s so easy to overlook the issues of Philadelphia, especially those from the early 1900s. That was a period when a variety of factors came together to make the Philadelphia dates of something like Barber dimes much more available than the issues of other facilities.

Overlooking Philadelphia Barber dimes can prove to be a mistake. Certainly there was a pattern that the Philadelphia dates would have higher mintages. There were proofs made each year in Philadelphia, too, which helps to increase the supply of top-grade examples. Even though the proofs had mintages usually in the hundreds, they would end up in the hands of collectors and as a result would have better care, making them more likely to survive to the present day in their original condition. Add to those numbers the fact that there were more collectors in the Philadelphia area, where coin collecting has generally been strong, and you have a number of elements all pointing toward a great supply of the already higher-mintage Philadelphia dates.

All of that said, Philadelphia Barber dimes are still not as available as you might think. Their usually reasonable prices today sometimes mask an uncertain or actually inadequate supply. The relatively small supply of some dates remains adequate when there is very little demand from collectors, but in many cases if additional demand were to surface there might have to be some significant changes.

When evaluating Philadelphia Barber dimes, the first one, the 1892, was probably created a little more equal than most. The 1892 had a high mintage of 12,120,000. To that total were added an estimated 1,245 proofs, which would be high for Barber dimes. Normally speaking, that combination of factors would make the 1892 relatively available, especially when it is the first year of a new design because they usually have a higher-than-average number saved. And that is the case as the 1892 is listed at $110 in MS-60 and $750 in MS-65 with a Proof-65 placed at $1,450.

It is interesting to see just how much the saving of Barber dimes dropped after the first year of issue. The 1892 is the least expensive, which means it might be submitted a bit less to grading services than other dates. That said, Professional Coin Grading Service had graded 969 examples of the 1892, of which about 800 were called Mint State. The 1893 had 207, of which about 170 were Mint State, and the 1894 was at 113, of which about 80 were Mint State. Now, that is not scientific proof, but it certainly is a very clear pattern, and when you are talking Mint State those are the coins saved by collectors. In theory, especially with Philadelphia coins, the numbers saved should be about equal even if their mintages were not as the same collectors in the Philadelphia area would save a coin each year.

Clearly there was a significant decline in the numbers saved after 1892.
The 1893 had a low mintage of 3,340,792, and that would result in slightly higher prices with a G-4 at $8.25 being listed at about twice the price of an 1892. In MS-60 the 1893 is $160 while an MS-65 is at $1,000. If the PCGS numbers are a good indication, for $1,000 you are getting a good deal as PCGS reports 36 examples of the 1893 in MS-65 or better. That total compares with some other issues that are much more expensive, but for now the price is probably not likely to go up too much as you have a Proof-65 option and in Proof-65 the 1893 is at $1,450.

The 1894 would see a continuation of the trend to lower mintages and lower saving. The 1894 had a mintage of 1,330,972. Today?s price listings are $25 in G-4, $320 in MS-60 and $1,200 in MS-65. Remember that the numbers in Mint State for the 1894 are lower than the previous years. That is also the case in MS-65 where PCGS reported 15 examples graded.

The 1894 in G-4, however, may be the most interesting of all. The $25 price is not that high for a Barber dime, but it is certainly a premium price. What must be remembered is that Barber dimes were not heavily collected ? not only at the time they were released, but for many decades. We see proof of that fact in the New York Subway Hoard purchased by the Littleton Coin Co. in the 1990s. That hoard was primarily of key dates and was begun in the 1940s. Apparently the people assembling the hoard made the decision that, as Barber dimes were probably starting to disappear from circulation, they should try to assemble complete sets. Naturally the sets would not have the great rarity, the 1894-S, as it never really circulated with a mintage of just 24, but they were able to find every other date. In fact, they were able to find every other date many times. The hoard contained 45 complete sets (again, absent the 1894-S).

The coins in the New York Subway Hoard were really the lucky ones. By the time that hoard was begun, an average 1894 would have been in circulation for nearly a half century. That would mean they were well worn, but more important was this: if not saved around the time of the hoard, the odds were pretty good that they would have become so worn that they would be retired and destroyed. As there were still no significant numbers of Barber dime collectors in the 1940s, the best guess would have to be that many lower-grade examples of a date like the 1894 ultimately would have been destroyed.

gre0828g.jpgThe 1895 is an even tougher date thanks in large part to a mintage of 690,880. That sort of a mintage was going to produce a better date under any circumstances. Today the 1895 lists for $85 in G-4. That is a strong price but probably still does not accurately reflect the real supply of the 1895 in a grade like G-4. It?s a case where a Philadelphia date is not likely to receive a lot of respect and interest. With the amount of collecting of Barber dimes today being limited, there is not a great deal of pressure on whatever supply there is, and that keeps prices relatively stable.

The 1895 is also interesting in Mint State. Once again the saving pattern continues to show fewer numbers in Mint State than are reported for earlier dates, and that produces price listings of $775 in MS-60 and $2,800 in MS-65. The MS-65 price may actually be a little high when compared to other Philadelphia Barber dimes. PCGS reports a total of 19 graded MS-65 or better. Remember, the cheaper 1894 had a total of just 15 coins graded MS-65 or better.

gre0828h.jpgThe 1895, like the other dates, is available as a proof, and it comes with an interesting story there. It was part of the set that included the famous 1895 Morgan dollar. The total minted was 880, with the 1895 Morgan dollar being a proof-only date ? although that was not realized for many years as its mintage was mistakenly put at 12,880. Now we know the 1895 Morgan had a mintage of just 880, and the 1895 Barber dime was at the same total in proof. It lists for $2,000 today. PCGS had seen just over 400 examples of the 1895 Morgan dollar while the total for the proof 1895 Barber dime, which was part of the same set and had the same mintage, stands at under 260. It raises the question as to what happened to the other proof 1895 dimes. The numbers might be slightly misleading as the possibility exists that 1895 Morgans have been submitted more than once in attempts to obtain better grades. Even so, it seems like an awfully large number of resubmissions.

Certainly the 1895 Barber dime has to look like an interesting deal in Proof-65 at $2,000 as the 1895 Morgan in Proof-65 is $67,500. If there was ever evidence of the impact of demand on price, you need look no further.

The slightly more available 1895 Morgan is listed at about $65,000 more than the 1895 Barber dime and virtually every dollar of that higher price has to be attributed to the enormous demand for the 1895 Morgan and the minimal demand for the 1895 Barber dime.

If you are looking for a potential sleeper among the early Philadelphia Barber dimes, the 1896 might be a good choice. The 1896 had a mintage of 2,000,762. What needs to be considered is that this total is not large at all. Later Philadelphia Barber dimes from Philadelphia would routinely top 10 million and some had totals closer to 20 million. Despite that fact, the 1896 has been historically treated by some as just another ordinary Philadelphia Barber dime. That is not really the case. The value listings for the 1896 today indicate some shortage in lower circulated grades. It lists for $11.50 in G-4. That is not a high price, but it does make the 1896 the last Philadelphia Barber dime to have a price of at least $10 in G-4.

The price of the 1896 in Mint State would seem to suggest that it is fairly average, at $160 in MS-60 and $1,500 in MS-65. Actually, those are still premium prices as later dates would be as little as $110 in MS-60 and $700 in MS-65, but the totals for the 1896 suggest that it has greater potential. In Mint State PCGS had seen about 85 examples, far fewer than other dates, and in MS-65 the total was at 18, one less than the much more expensive 1895. We cannot conclude from that difference that the 1896 is actually tougher than the 1895, but we can conclude they are fairly close even though the price of the 1895 in MS-65 is almost twice the price of the 1896. Nor is it a case where we can suggest that the 1896 has more proofs to keep the price lower. The proof mintage of the 1896 is thought to have been 862, as opposed to 880 for the 1895. In terms of numbers of coins seen, the totals of the 1896 at PCGS were in fact slightly lower than for the 1895.

Simply put, it is very hard to escape the fact that the 1896 is better in general. It would compare well to almost any Philadelphia Barber dime, including the 1895. Down the road, if any Philadelphia Barber dime is likely to see higher prices, the 1896 would have to be on any short lists as it is much tougher than its current listings indicate.

The remaining dates of the 1890s from Philadelphia are generally seen as average. The  1897, 1898 and 1899 all had mintage of at least 10 million pieces and the 1899 was actually closer to 20 million at 19,580,846. The G-4 listings of the three are under $3. In MS-60 the 1897 and 1898 list at $130 while the 1899 is at just $115. MS-65 listings for the three show the 1897 and 1899 at $700 while the 1898 is at $720. Those are common-date prices in MS-65 and the question has to be raised as to whether these dates are really that available in MS-65. The first point is that they are more available than some of the earlier dates. It is hard to show any reason for that, but the totals at PCGS had the 1897 at just over 50 examples in MS-65 while the 1898 was at just over 70. The 1899, however, might be worth a second look as its total in MS-65 or better was just 33 pieces ? while not as low as some of the earlier dates, it is still well below many later dates at the same price.

If you go through available numbers of Philadelphia Barber dime dates in MS-65 or even in MS-60, you will periodically find situations where a date is seemingly better than its price indicates. Those dates, like the 1899 in MS-65, probably should be at higher prices. What is keeping that from happening is not that price guide editors are unaware of the situation, but rather a lack of demand. To have those dates move to higher prices, people need to collect the complete set in Mint State or MS-65. While the supply of the 1899 might be lower than other dates, it is still enough to meet current demand, and that keeps the price from rising. Until we see added demand, a date like the 1899 might be a good value in MS-65 but it is not a coin that you can buy expecting to see significant price increases. We already know the supply is low but, lacking more demand, there is no reason to increase its price.

The temptation would be to view the Barber dimes of the 1900s as basically equal, considering all as available dates. In fact, at least in Mint State and especially in MS-65, there are some better dates. They may not be among the key dates of the set, but the 1900 while inexpensive in MS-60 is at a slight premium of $825 in MS-65. The reason for that premium is that just 24 examples of the 1900 had been seen in MS-65 or better by PCGS. Interestingly, the 1901 is slightly more, at $850 in MS-65, but its MS-65 or better total at PCGS was at 34.

The 1902 is priced as an available date although its MS-65 or better total sits at just 30 pieces. The 1903, however is a different story as it has an available date MS-60 listing but jumps to $1,150 in MS-65. The 1904 repeats the pattern except that it is even higher in MS-65 at $1,950.

The grading service evidence shows the 1903 at just 13 examples in MS-65 or better while the 1904 checks in with 19. Again the prices seem reversed of what they should be based on the numbers graded, but the caution remains that the totals are relatively low and represent just one grading service. With greater numbers seen, the possibility exists that the totals could change, although the fact remains that the two dates are tougher in top grades and bear watching.

After the 1904, what we have is basically an unbroken string of Philadelphia Barber dimes priced at available-date levels. These, too, are not by definition equal, even though their prices are the same. The dates after 1910 show significantly higher numbers graded in MS-65 and above, with the 1911, for example, having a total of more than 170 coins graded MS-65 or better by PCGS. Ironically, there is an exception in the form of the 1915, which while at the same price as the 1911 had a total of just 24 coins graded so far by PCGS in MS-65 or better.

Although prices should differ for the assorted dates, the fact remains that in all probability we are not going to see differences between the 1911 and 1915, or any number of other combinations, until such time as the demand increases for all dates in MS-65 or better. Only then will we be likely to see the supply of one date dry up faster than another, causing prices to rise.

For the person wanting good values, the Philadelphia Barber dime offers a number of interesting possibilities. When you look at the mintages and grading service totals, one clear conclusion is that Philadelphia Barber dimes are potentially much better as a group than many think. u 

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