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Roosevelt dimes offer plenty of options

By Mark Benvenuto

When it comes to what is the Rodney Dangerfield of U.S. coins, a quick vote has to go to our humble Roosevelt dime. Think about the dime’s long standing design in relation to our other coins. Of all the working coins we have today, the cent, nickel and quarter have seen changes to their design in the recent past—and in the case of the quarter see changes multiple times per year. Even the half dollar and dollar have seen some excitement, with a gold commemorative half dollar issued recently, and with several different Presidential and Sacagawea dollars out there for the collector who can find them.

But the dime? Well, Franklin D. Roosevelt has been looking out from them for over six decades with no changes at all, except for the metal composition in 1965. Even the dimes that were replaced by the Roosevelts (the now-classic Mercury dimes) are more avidly collected. Yet precisely because our little 10-cent pieces have been overlooked for so long means there are some neat collecting possibilities within the series. Let’s see what we might be able to assemble into a sharp-looking collection.

 More than 2.3 million proofs dimes were struck in 2002.

More than 2.3 million proofs dimes were struck in 2002.

Proofs, 1992 to the present: The U.S. Mint has had a well developed proof coinage program in place for decades now, issuing sets inclusive of every denomination every year. Back in 1992 a new option was made available to collectors—proof sets in which the silver coins were once again 90 percent silver. That means there are silver Roosevelt dimes, as well as silver Washington quarters and Kennedy halves, which are easy to collect. And with 25 years of them now in the past, that means there is a pretty hefty collection that can be made of what we might want to call the most modern silver Roosevelt dimes.

Perhaps one of the best aspects of collecting these modern proofs is the price range. In grades as high as Proof-69, most cost no more than $25, with some costing considerably less. That means the entire run, from 1992 to the present, will cost a lot less than even a single Morgan or Peace dollar in some higher proof grade.

A quick caveat might be in order for any of us interested in this series, and in purchasing the high grade proofs: I recommend that you buy certified coins. Even if you are a purist of the old school, one who wants to make absolutely sure you are as close to your coins as you can get, it’s worth buying these pieces in a third-party holder, just so you are spared the rude shock of finding the supposed PR-69 you bought can only sell as a -66.

Of course, a person does not have to gravitate toward the silver version of the modern proofs. There have been base-metal proof sets made throughout this time frame as well—the same metal composition as our circulating dimes. They are still proofs made to the high standard of virtually all modern mints. But they may carry slightly lower price tags, simply because there is no silver in them.

Proofs, 1968 to 1991: The change from a circulating silver dime to the base-metal coins we use today occurred in 1965, but at the same time a three-year hiatus also began, with no proofs at all being produced from 1965 to 1967. In 1968, what was then the latest proof offering was the first to be made at the San Francisco Mint. Proofs have been made there ever since.

The entire 1968-1991 set of dimes featuring our 32nd president are going to be base-metal coins, but they’re still proofs, made with a special care and pride. That means they are still going to be excellent-looking pieces. Although they were sold in sets, the simple passage of time means that more of them have been broken out of those sets, and thus can be purchased today as individual coins.

I mentioned that for the newest proofs there is the possibility of purchasing examples in grades such as PR-69. That’s usually not the case here. For this chunk of the proof Roosevelt dimes, the more common grade might be PR-65.

It’s worth knowing that in a grade like PR-65 the price tag for any of these is about $3 to $5. These tremendous-looking proof dimes cost only a few dollars apiece.

Now, even though the Roosevelt dime series does not have any real rarity within it, there is what we might call a manufactured one. In 1968 a very few proof dimes were made, sold, and delivered to the general public without a mintmark. This small omission of a mintmark has made that big a difference, with price lists tagging it at $12,000.

 In 1951, 570,500 proof Roosevelt dimes were minted.

In 1951, 570,500 proof Roosevelt dimes were minted.

Proofs, 1950 to 1964: What now get called the classic proof Roosevelt dimes are those minted from 1950, the start of the continuous modern proof program, to 1964, the last year when circulating dimes, quarters, and half dollars were made with a 90 percent silver alloy. Proofs were always sold in sets through this span of years, but it’s worth looking at the mintage figures from these years to see how much the program ramped up from rather humble beginnings.

The year 1950 saw 51,386 sets. But only eight years later, in 1957, the output had risen to over 1 million sets. And with only a minor dip in 1958, the number kept going up, so that from 1961 to 1964, each year saw over 3 million sets produced and sold to collectors. All things considered, that’s a lot of proof dimes.

Curiously, if there is any collecting frenzy over proofs from this time, it seems to be focused on the Franklin half dollars that were in these sets. That in turn means there are some amazingly inexpensive proofs sporting FDR’s face, as these appear to be less sought after than their bigger siblings.

Do you have $5 to spend? If so, you can probably land any of the dates from 1957-1964 in grades such as PR-65. Any way you look at it, that’s a gorgeous price for a gorgeous coin. Similarly, even the older ones in this group—the 1950 to 1956 dates—have price tags no higher than $40. Once again we find that these are beautiful 10-cent pieces at amazingly low prices.

The big picture: We’ve seen that the dimes sporting Roosevelt’s face can be divided quite easily into three different sections, and that no matter the date or the metal, all of them will be both very attractive and quite affordable. We’ve seen that PR-65 pieces might be available for prices so low it’s unbelievable. The big picture seems to be that these small silver coins have the potential for some huge collecting enjoyment.

This article was originally printed in Coins Magazine. >> Subscribe today.

More Collecting Resources

• Keep up to date on prices for Canada, United States and Mexico coinage with the 2018 North American Coins & Prices guide.

• When it comes to specialized world paper money issues, nothing can top the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, Specialized Issues .