Sometimes very good coins can be overlooked because they are from a better-than-average year and do not stand out the way they otherwise would. For example, The Philadelphia an San Francisco 1916 Walking Liberty half dollars have relatively low mintages under 700,000. However, they don’t get the attention those mintages warrant because 1916 saw a 52,000-mintage Standing Liberty quarter and a 264,000-mintage “D” dime.
It cannot be argued that the dimes of 1949 are in the same league. There are virtually no better Roosevelt dimes in the minds of many. Even if you consider only years where there were low-mintage Roosevelt dimes, the year most think of is 1955 when three of the four lowest-mintage Roosevelt dimes were produced. It is pretty hard to top that record, but the 1955 dimes have not turned out to be all that tough because they were saved in large numbers by collectors and dealers of the day.
Things were different in 1949. Back then, the Roosevelt dime was still relatively new on the scene, having made its debut in 1946. That may be the worst possible combination when it comes to having a heavy saving of a specific date. There is usually some saving when a coin design is new, but by a few years later the novelty has worn off. Even collectors tend to overlook coins after the first few years, reasoning that they are new and common and will always be available. Collectors and dealers should know better, but it seems like generation after generation makes the same mistake.
The situation back in 1949 was probably complicated by the fact that there had been a new half dollar released for the first time the previous year. The Franklin half dollar had not touched off a wave of interest, but any time there is a new design it is bound to be a little more interesting for a year or two.
If you look at the Roosevelt dime mintages of 1949, you can see it was not a year characterized by heavy mintages. The 1949 had a mintage of 30,940,000, while the 1949-S was at just 13,510,000, with the 1949-D at 26,034,000. Combined, the three were at just over 70 million, and that is not really a lot of dimes.
Historically, it has been rather easy to pick out the best date from 1949: it would be the lowest-mintage 1949-S. That has been the story since 1949, and there is no good reason to expect that to change, at least among the dimes of that year.
The lack of saving in 1949 can be seen in the fact that the 1949-S in MS-65 is really the most expensive Roosevelt dime. It did not have the lowest mintage but the lowest mintage Roosevelt dimes from 1955 were heavily saved but the 1949-S was not. That puts it at $60 in MS-65.
There is additional evidence regarding the lack of saving. The Philadelphia 1949 is the highest-mintage of that year’s dimes, and it is at $25 in MS-65. That makes it the third most expensive Roosevelt dime in that grade even though it is not even close to the third lowest mintage.
In the case of the 1949-D, it has historically been seen as more available than the other two. It is actually a little hard to explain but at $7 in MS-60, it is well below the $12 of the 1949 and $35 of the 1949-S. The same can be said of the MS-65 price, which is $20, which is not a lot of money for a coin so old.
Simply put, there are signs that the 1949-D is not available in large numbers. The real question is when will the price move still higher, and the answer seems to be at any time. The 1949-D, like the other 1949 Roosevelt dimes, is better than many suspect.