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Item of the Week: 1955-D Roosevelt Dime


It should have been a rare date. At least that is what many thought would happen with the 1955-D Roosevelt dime. However, it is rare in a sense: rarely do coins have as many different factors at work to influence their availability and price as the 1955-D Roosevelt dime.

Back in 1955, the Roosevelt dime was not exactly a major collector factor. A goodly percentage of collectors at the time could not afford to collect dimes. After all, our allowances might have been a quarter, but rarely much more, and you do not collect many dimes on a quarter a week. Even if one had enough money to collect dimes, the Mercury dime was a more likely choice since they were in circulation and included the famous 1916-D along with some better dates like the 1921 and 1921-D. By comparison, there hadn’t many impressive Roosevelt dimes except for perhaps the 1949-S, but its mintage was over 13.5 million.

There was a lot of interest going into 1955 since it was going to be the last year of coin production at the San Francisco Mint. That was big news because virtually all of the nation’s young collectors were filling Lincoln cent albums, which meant they were all fans of San Francisco as it almost always had the lowest cent mintage.

San Francisco did not disappoint that year. The 1955-S cent had the lowest cent mintage in well over a decade, and the 1955-S dime also had a low mintage of just over 18.5 million.

The big surprise of the year, however, was the 1955 doubled die obverse cent. It eclipsed everything else, and it’s still that way today. One of the coins it eclipsed was the 1955-D Roosevelt dime.

The 1955 Roosevelt dimes all had mintages of less than 20 million, which was definitely low for a dime. The 1955 from Philadelphia was the lowest of the three with a total of 12,828, 381, but the 1955-D was not that much higher at 13,959,000. That made them two of the three lowest-mintage Roosevelt dimes in history, with the 1955-S ranking number four. Because of this, some collectors saved examples of these coins.

Thanks first to the 1950-D Jefferson nickel, then to the coins of 1955, there was a lot of saving at the time. If you saved one coin and it did well, that was good; but if you had a roll, that multiplied your profits.

In fact, the 1955-D Roosevelt dime might have turned out to be a much better date, but all that saving meant there were large numbers sitting in top grades. It was very much like the 1950-D nickel: the saving was far greater than normal so the coin moved very little in terms of price. The situation was compounded when coin collecting interest declined around 1965, when mintmarks were removed for a few years to discourage coin collecting. It worked, discouraging collecting and discouraging anyone from caring about things like the 1955-D.

In fairness, the hoards of the 1955-D had been assembled to make money, and that opportunity arrived in the late 1970s but not in the way owners expected. The price of silver began its rise to $50 an ounce and that saw the 1955-D and every other 90 percent silver dime rise as well. Finally there was profit in the 1955-D, but there was also a decision. Selling it despite that low mintage seemed to be inviting it to soar in price the way many had expected back in 1955. That said, something was better than nothing, and there is no doubt that some numbers of the 1955-D were destroyed.

That brings us to the present day where the 1955-D now sits at $8.50 in MS-65. That’s certainly not a high price for the third-lowest-mintage Roosevelt dime. It’s a high price if there are still rolls and bags of the 1955-D waiting for the day when it suddenly gets noticed and soars in price. The problem is we don’t know what the real situation is because the 1955-D is not a date routinely sent to grading services since the cost of grading is more than the value of the coins. As a result, all we can do is guess that there are supplies, which explains the $8.50 price.