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Roosevelt dimes of Denver get once-over

gre0729a.jpgNow into its seventh decade of production, the Roosevelt dime is still looking for a serious collector base. It is not a case where there are no collectors of Roosevelt dimes but rather one of the numbers being smaller than might be expected. That could very easily change especially as new generations of collectors realize how many interesting opportunities there are to be found in Roosevelt dimes.

This is certainly true in the case of Denver Roosevelt dimes as like the Roosevelt dimes produced at the other facilities, there are any number of interesting Denver Roosevelt dimes and they join together to tell a story not just of Roosevelt dimes but also the United States and coin collecting in the United States since World War II. The story alone makes the Denver Roosevelt dimes interesting, but the coins themselves also make it fun.

One of the interesting parts of the story of Denver Roosevelt dimes is the changing role of the facility itself when it comes to Roosevelt dime production. At times Denver has been the facility regularly producing the most Roosevelt dimes as was the case during the early 1960s, but it certainly did not start that way.

gre0729b.jpgBack in 1946 when the first Roosevelt dime was produced, it was Philadelphia that struck the most Roosevelt dimes by a wide margin. That first year of production saw Philadelphia produce a total of 225,250,000 examples of the new Roosevelt dime while the Denver total was just 61,043,500.

There is no particular reason for the wide difference in mintages in 1946.
It was a case where officials were confronted with an unusual situation.
Making a new dime featuring the President who had died the previous year while in office was totally new for the United States.

The new coin might be considered a part of the mourning process itself. It also was an ongoing aid to the March of Dimes, which was fighting polio, a disease that Roosevelt himself had endured.

As an historical figure, Roosevelt?s stock has been rising with historians and probably for good reason. After all, it was no accident that Roosevelt had been elected to four terms as President. He had played a role in the life of virtually every American through his use of the radio. His ?fireside chats? had become one of the most popular programs on the radio as he first gave Americans hope as they tried to survive during the Great Depression. Later it was the same approach offering a calm voice filled with determination even during the darkest days of World War II.

Roosevelt?s death with victory in sight in World War II left many Americans both at home and in the fields of Europe or on ships in the Pacific without the only leader many of them could remember. The grief of the nation was very real and it produced the decision to honor the fallen leader with a new dime. Officials made the logical assumption as was the case later when the Kennedy half dollar was first issued that millions of Americans would simply have to have that new Roosevelt dime.

There is no doubt that there was heavy initial saving of the Roosevelt dime. The assumption, however, has always been that it would be the more heavily produced Philadelphia Roosevelt dime that  would be more available yet in fact the 1946-D seems to be similarly available. It is not really possible to draw firm conclusions from the numbers at grading services simply because lower priced coins are not graded as often as others with higher price tags.

gre0729c.jpgThe information we have, however, shows the 1946-D at $2.25 in MS-60 and $15 in MS-65 while the 1946 is $2 in MS-60 and $14 in MS-65.

At PCGS in MS-66, the 1946 has been seen 757 times while the 1946-D is at 721, with the 1946 showing 86 examples in MS-67 while the 1946-D has a total of 119.

Clearly the numbers are not conclusive one way or the other and in fact it seems like a classic case of the two dates switching places depending on the grade as to which is the more available. Our information is not complete as there is no doubt that many examples of both have not been graded but there seems to be enough information to at least suggest that the two are far closer in availability today than they were in mintage totals back in 1946.

Because it was the first and probably most heavily saved Denver Roosevelt dime, the 1946-D becomes a good standard by which to gauge others. The 1947-D had a smaller 46,835,000 mintage, which produces a higher $5 figure in MS-60 and $17 in MS-65. It is not the mintages that makes the prices higher, but rather lower numbers, with PCGS reporting just 350 examples in MS-66 and another 71 in MS-67.

As a keepsake, the Roosevelt dime had appeal. The situation was different when it came to the Roosevelt dime as a collection. There were simply too many other good alternatives. It is a fairly natural situation which has happened repeatedly throughout history in that the current coins are frequently overlooked in favor of older issues. In the case of dimes back in the 1940s there were still more than enough Mercury dimes in circulation to make the Mercury dime a popular set if you wanted to collect dimes.

gre0729d.jpgThe fact is the denomination also played a role as dimes were not a heavily collected denomination at the time simply because many of the new collectors of the day were youngsters with very limited budgets. They tended to start with cents simply because they were the most affordable. That trend would continue throughout the 1940s and 1950s and it had an impact as if there was no real demand for a certain coin like Roosevelt dimes the dealers of the day were unlikely to invest in a roll or larger quantity of each year?s issues. To be sure, there have been supplies of virtually every date over the years in the form of original rolls but that supply is not as large as might be expected.

In the case of the 1948-D, which had competition for the collector and dealer dollars of the year because of the new Franklin half dollar, we find a mintage of 52,841,000 and a price of $6 in MS-60  and $17 in MS-65. The supply seen at the grading services shows the 1948-D is somewhat available, with close to 550 examples reported by PCGS in MS-66 and just over 150 in MS-67.

In 1949 it was one of those years that happen periodically where virtually every coin produced seems to be better. The Denver Roosevelt dime is no exception with a mintage of 26,034,000. As it turned out, the 1949-D is somewhat overshadowed by the 1949-S, which is the key Roosevelt dime in many grades but the 1949-D is also better with a listing of $9 in MS-60 and $22 in MS-65,  making it one of only six dates to reach the $20 mark in MS-65. Interestingly enough, the 1949-D totals at PCGS in MS-66 and MS-67 are very high, with the MS-66 total approaching 950 and the MS-67 total at over 200.

The 1949-D grading service total might suggest a lower price, but that is where we have to pause and realize that in the case of Roosevelt dimes the numbers graded are potentially very misleading. At $9 in MS-60 and $22 in MS-65 it is safe to assume that the 1949-D would be one of the very few Roosevelt dimes that  might be sent in for grading on anything approaching a regular basis. That would account for the higher numbers.

Moreover, the only 1949-D or other dates sent in will be what the owners decide are truly their exceptional examples. Financially it makes no sense to send in a 1949-D to have it come back AU-58. Consequently, we cannot really reach conclusions as the numbers known cannot be expected to reflect numbers available of the 1949-D as opposed to the 1954-D or any other date.

Things would change with the 1950-D as it had a mintage of just over 50 million. It begins a group of Denver dates from the early 1950s that have been getting more attention as of late. The 1950-D and 1951-D both had mintages of less than 60 million while the 1952-D, 1953-D and 1954-D were all above 100 million.

There is some pricing differential. The lowest MS-65 price is $7 for the 1954-D and $12 for the 1950-D. These mesh pretty well with the relative mintages. It is tempting to check the numbers grade, but once again they cannot be trusted to give us a real indication as to availability of these dates in Mint State. As time passes, there may be price movements when dealers are forced to raise prices simply to have the dates in stock, but at today’s prices there is not much pressure as stocking $7-$12 Roosevelt dimes is not a high priority in the minds of many.

The situation in 1955 was very different. The 1955-D had a mintage of 13,959,000, which helped it become involved in some of the excitement of that year.

There were a number of factors at work. The first was that it was the final year of coin production at San Francisco and that caused a great deal of attention to be centered on the 1955-S cent and dime,  which were the only two denominations produced at San Francisco. The cent had the lowest mintage in over a decade and the 1955-S at under 20 million was also a low mintage.

As it turned out, the 1955-S dime even though a low mintage turned out to be the highest mintage dime of the year, with the 1955-D as well as the even lower mintage 1955 from Philadelphia turning out to be major surprises. Actually, other denominations also included low mintage dates so everywhere a collector turned in 1955 there were low mintage coins to attract their interest.

Even with a lot of competition in terms of other good coins to save from the year,  the 1955-D along with the other dimes of 1955 were hoarded. There was a very good reason for that other than their low mintages in that one of the sensations of the rare coin market at the time was the 1950-D Jefferson nickel, which was soaring in price and getting more and more attention as that happened. The 1950-D nickel was attracting all the attention because it was the lowest mintage Jefferson nickel and had also been heavily hoarded, which made it appear even better than the mintage suggested. The lesson of the 1950-D in the minds of many collectors of the day was to acquire significant numbers of low mintage dates when they were issued and that message was carried out by many in 1955 as they hoarded the dime of the year in the hope that one or all three might become the next 1950-D.

As it worked out, even the 1950-D nickel would eventually run out of steam in terms of price increases and the 1955-D and the other dimes of 1955 did the same, although they never really had the price increases seen in the 1950-D. It turned out to be a disappointment to those who had acquired uncirculated rolls of the 1955-D and the other 1955 dimes as with supplies available they never really rose in price the way the owners expected.

That set up a situation that is particularly interesting in the case of the 1955-D and other dimes of 1955, but which also applies to the dates through the 1964-D. With the elimination of silver from the dime starting in 1965 all of the dates from the 1950s and 1960s were pulled from circulation. There were also rolls and bags of many of the dates as people since the 1950-D had been careful to set aside quantities of all new issues.
For years all of those 90 percent silver dimes in all grades and with virtually all dates being involved simply gathered dust as no matter how low their mintage, they were available.

In the late 1970s, however, the price of silver began to rise in a most unusual manner. People for years had expected silver price increases but no one expected anything like what happened with the peak being reached in early 1980 when it briefly reached $50 an ounce.

In the period leading up to the peak and even following it, millions of Roosevelt dimes were melted. It did not matter what date they were or what grade as when you have $50-an-ounce silver any Roosevelt dime is worth $3.60 and that is more than most were worth in any grade at the time, though because the refineries were backed up, the highest price paid for these was $2.40, or 24 times face value.

 Those holding the 1955-D might have hesitated, knowing it was the third lowest mintage Roosevelt dime, but at $50-an ounce-silver, even the 1955-D seemed likely to have reached its peak price.

Today at $10 in MS-65, the 1955-D has more than doubled in less than three years.

The 1955-D may have even a better future. It has become a true wild card in terms of availability. We know large numbers were melted, but we do not know how many or how strong the supply is today.

It will take some years of price increases to induce more people to submit these dates to grading services. Only the passage of time and additional demand will clear up the matter of ultimate scarcity.

Who knows, the 1958-D could have been more heavily melted. We just don?t know. Until we get concrete statistics, we collectors simply must assume that coins were melted in proportion to their mintages.

With additional demand in the future, we might see the current supplies however small or large tested and at that point in time it will be possible to determine what dates are less available than others and deserving of higher prices.

Just as the 90 percent silver dates from Denver and the other facilities are hard to predict or even analyze, the dates with no silver that started in 1965 are equally tough to determine but for other reasons. Certainly we have seen no melting of the clad Roosevelt dimes since 1965, but we have also seen very sporadic saving. That is natural with new issues but is more pronounced in the case of dates from the past few decades and especially since the 1980s.

The reason why there has been relatively little saving of new dates involves an old factor and a new. The old factor is simply that more often than not new dates are saved only in small numbers by collectors who need an example for their collections. Dealers, however, figuring that there is little profit in new dates and little demand as their customers can buy their own roll or mint set or whatever they want simply do not set aside large quantities of new dates and that has happened for at least the past century.

There is a new factor as well and that is that since the 1980s the options when it comes to new issues have expanded greatly. There are commemoratives and bullion coins and proof bullion coins and silver proof sets and any number of other items and that means less money is likely to be spent on something as routine as an uncirculated roll of new Denver dimes.

We really have no idea what dates might turn out to be in short supply,  although the 1982-D and 1983-D might well be the prime examples of the potential of some modern dates. In 1982 and 1983 there were no mint sets and that means there are not 1 million or more Mint State examples of these two dates sitting in sets that can potentially be broken up if the price is right. That is why the 1982-D is $3 in MS-65 and the 1983-D is $2.50, more than twice the price of an average date. We know the supplies of the 1982-D and 1983-D are suspect and that produces higher prices, but there are probably a number of other dates as well. We cannot be sure what those dates are but the 1984-D and 1986-D are two that are already well above the available date price and others will probably surface over time.
With the enormous uncertainty over supplies both of the silver Denver Roosevelt dimes as well as the clad dates since 1965, we can expect that Denver Roosevelt dimes will be a very interesting group in the years to come. Fortunately, at today?s prices you can obtain any and all Denver Roosevelt dimes and that makes for a great collection of interesting coins that might just be financially rewarding in the future.

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