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1949-S Roosevelt dime an affordable key

 The 1949-S Roosevelt dime did not draw much attention at the time of its release, resulting in a smaller number being put aside by collectors. (Image courtesy

The 1949-S Roosevelt dime did not draw much attention at the time of its release, resulting in a smaller number being put aside by collectors. (Image courtesy

There is a pretty strong case to be made that there are no especially tough Roosevelt dimes, which were first produced in 1946. They have been saved, and they have also always had mintages that, while not necessarily high, were at least always sufficient.

There are no Roosevelt dimes with mintage totals below one million. In fact, there are not even many Roosevelt dimes below 10 million. Just compare that to the Mercury dime, where there are about 25 dates with mintages lower than the lowest Roosevelt dime.

Another pretty strong case can be made that, if there are better Roosevelt dime dates, at or near the top of the list would have to be the 1949-S. It has been this way since its mintage of 13,510,000 was first produced.

The 1949-S is not the lowest-mintage Roosevelt dime date, as the 1955 from Philadelphia is actually slightly smaller at 12,828,381. However, the 1955 came along at a time where there was unusually heavy saving. Despite its low mintage, its available numbers in Mint State are higher than not only the 1949-S but also a number of other dates.

There is a lot of interest in the 1955, 1955-D and 1955-S dime, all of which had low mintages, because 1955 was supposed to be the final year of coin production at San Francisco. There were low-mintage dates in virtually every denomination, and topping things off was the 1955 doubled die obverse cent. People were searching rolls, and saving rolls and bags, of virtually everything!

Nothing like that was going on in 1949. There might have been a small amount of saving, but despite some lower mintages for the 1949-S dime and some Franklin half dollars, there was nothing to create national attention. It was, at best, an average year in terms of interest.

Another factor is that, in 1949, there simply were not that many Roosevelt dime collectors. The coins had been in production for just a few years, and many of the collectors of the day were young and on limited budgets. They were collecting cents and possibly nickels, but not dimes in great numbers. If they did start a dime collection, it was likely to be with the Mercury design, which was still at least as common as the Roosevelt in circulation and which had so many more lower mintage and probably better dates.

The dealers of the day would have reflected their customers. If the dealers wanted any large numbers of any coins, they could have purchased $1,000 silver dollar bags. At worst, they got better dates and could sell them immediately for a profit. Why would anyone have saved a roll or bag of dimes? There were simply too many other options.

The impact was seen with other dates as well. The 1950-S (mintage 20,440,000) is in exactly the same situation. In fact, in recent years the 1949-S and 1950-S have become very close in price, creating co-keys for the Roosevelt dime series.

Today, the 1950-S is listed at $23 in MS-60 condition and $35 in MS-65. The 1949-S is at $35 in MS-60 and $60 in MS-65. However, it is somewhat open to debate as to whether these prices really reflect the supplies of the two dates.

Under the circumstances, the future of the 1949-S is not perfectly clear. We cannot be sure whether it will remain more, or become less, costly than the 1950-S and in what grades. What is clear is that the 1949-S is likely to retain its position as one of the most costly Roosevelt dimes in Mint State.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

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