It is hard to be objective when it comes to the 1844 Seated Liberty dime, otherwise known as “Orphan Annie.”
The best place to start with is with its low mintage of 72,500. That, at least, cannot be disputed. Just about everything else can be.
With that mintage, the 1844 Seated Liberty dime is a better date. Over the years, however, some have sought to make the 1844 seem better than it really is.
In his book, American Coin Treasures and Hoards, Q. David Bowers reports on an individual who had 200 examples of the 1844, which is a lot for a dime of that age and mintage. There have been other accumulations of the 1844, and in most cases they were intended for profit.
The problem has been that those holding the 1844 have seemingly been prone to hype, probably hoping to push prices to higher levels. The name, “Orphan Annie,” was first used as a name most would associate with someone or, in this case, something that deserved better.
You might question why the 1844 dime deserved better. That is where the stories come in. One is that it was paid to the troops before they left for Mexico, where they handed it out like candy to young ladies who made them into bracelets. This is not very likely. Maybe a few examples were lost in Mexico. And maybe a few were lost in the assorted floods, fires and shipwrecks that were also mentioned in conjunction with the 1844. Maybe some did end up being buried by robbers and so on, but it was overkill of the worst sort. If all these things had happened to the 1844, there would be no 200-coin hoard. It would be a miracle if any were left.
Then, a few years later, the backlash set in. The 1846 had an even lower mintage of 31,300 but no name and no stories. Many pointed out that the 1846 was probably tougher than the 1844 but less expensive.
Today the 1844 is $275 in G-4 while the 1846 is at just $250. Things change in MS-60, where the 1844 is at $3,000 while the 1846 is at $5,500.
Numismatic Guaranty Corporation has graded a total of 27 examples of the 1844, and six were called Mint State. A total of 26 examples of the 1846 were graded and none were called Mint State. These totals suggest that the 1846 is the tougher of the two by a small margin.
Professional Coin Grading Service has graded the 1844 73 times and four were called Mint State. The 1846 has been graded 45 times with one being called Mint State. These numbers seem to give support to those contending that the 1844 is too costly when compared to the 1846.
There is no dramatic conclusion, but the numbers seem to suggest that both are very tough dimes, as should be the case. They fall short of proving that the 1844 is too expensive but probably make a decent case that the 1846 might be deserving of a higher G-4 price. The best message might be to appreciate the 1844 as a tough dime and not an orphan or the survivor of any wars or floods or fires.