It?s amazing to consider how many stories there are regarding lost or missing coins. There are at least as many about coins that suddenly appear in places they should not be. One of these stories involves the 1869-S Seated Liberty dime.
Back in 1869 the nation was still basically without circulating silver and gold coins. They had disappeared during the Civil War. Moreover, gold and silver issues made during and in the immediate years after the war had basically stayed in vaults.
There was an exception. California seemed to basically ignore whatever the rest of the nation was doing at the time. With gold in a wide variety of forms, people in California never saw any real reason to hoard coins. The Civil War was a distant matter.
California?s commerce remained basically as it had been for years with an animal skin here, a pinch of gold there and perhaps a U.S. coin every so often. That hardly exhausted the list of options since there were privately made gold coins and foreign coins as well.
The San Francisco Mint was a rather unhealthy shack that was somehow trying to turn out the coins needed in the West. Dimes were not a production priority.San Francisco began coin production in 1854, yet the first dime was not produced until 1856. The 1869-S was the first San Francisco dime to ever come close to a one-half million mintage at 450,000.
It is not wise to expect large numbers of the 1869-S at the next coin show. There was simply little or no saving of San Francisco dimes at the time.
Today the 1869-S dime is $25 in G-4, which is only a slight premium. It is $400 in MS-60, which is a very modest premium for a San Francisco date. Mintage aside, the reason for the modest premium may well come from a source far from San Francisco.
In his book, American Coin Treasures and Hoards, Q. David Bowers writes about the 1869-S. He says, ?several dozen or more of these turned up in the early 1990s in Europe in a former communist country. One piece examined by the author was choice Mint State.?
Bowers goes no further in his discussion, but the story is certainly interesting. Checking the grading services for evidence of how many 1869-S dimes there are in Mint State, we find that the Professional Coin Grading Service reports 27. The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation reports 35. Both are high numbers for a San Francisco dime of the period.
The conclusion has to be that Bowers is correct, but the total in the hoard was probably small. Why the coins migrated to Europe is unknown, but it makes any Mint State 1869-S Seated Liberty dime an interesting coin with a potentially unusual past.