There have been a lot of sleeper Barber dimes, but that has begun to change in recent years with some dates finally starting to rise in price. This seems to be the case with the 1904-S, but the process is just beginning. We could easily see it move to even higher prices.
It is possible that the sales of the famous 1894-S may help to speed the process along. Even though the 1894-S is not part of a regular Barber dime set, it is still the Barber dime that gets all of the publicity.
With a mintage of 800,000 the 1904-S should have been given some attention, but many Barber dime dates have mintages below 1 million so the 1904-S simply did not stand out.
In fact, the 1904-S was better than that already-low total mintage for a couple of reasons. First, almost no one was collecting Barber dimes at the time. Collector interest was down and it was just too expensive for most collectors. The few who did collect Barber dimes were probably assembling only date sets.
Evidence that the 1904-S was easily found in circulation comes from the ?New York Subway Hoard,? purchased by the Littleton Coin Company in the 1990s. The hoard was started in the 1940s and it contained 45 complete sets of Barber dimes except for the 1894-S.
Part of the reason the 1904-S has jumped from $25 to $45 in G-4 since 1998 might be that its total numbers are not that strong. Remember that the city of San Francisco was destroyed by an earthquake and fire in 1906. It is likely that a large number of 1904-S dimes were sitting in the buildings, stores and banks that were destroyed. There is no way to prove that, but pre-earthquake San Francisco dates tend to be higher in price than dates produced after the disaster even if they have higher mintages. For example, the 1904-S is more costly than the 1913-S, even though the 1913-S had a mintage of 510,000.
The earthquake could have also caused problems with the already-low Mint State totals. Today it is at $750 in MS-60, while in MS-65 it has a price of $4,500. Both prices are above average for a Barber dime, but consider the totals.
The 1904-S has been graded just 50 times at Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, and only five were MS-65 with another in MS-66. The bulk were Mint State since few would send a circulated 1904-S in for grading. At Professional Coin Grading Service, the 1904-S has been graded 70 times with four being MS-65, seven being MS-66 and one being MS-67. That is a total of just 18 examples in MS-65 or better that have been submitted for grading.
In fairness, there is limited demand for MS-65 Barber dimes, but any increase in demand for the 1904-S could push prices higher. Certainly the 1904-S is showing signs of life in any grade and has the potential to rise in price.