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The History of the 1894-S Dime, Part 2

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edited January 10, 2022 7:50AM in U.S. Coin Forum

Burd contends only nine ‘94-S dimes can be traced

The existence of only nine specimens of the 1894-S dime, not the “about one dozen” generally reported, can be reliably traced, an article by William A. Burd in the February (1994) issue of The Numismatist contends.

The Numismatist is published monthly by the American Numismatic Association and sent free to ANA members.

Burd constructs revised pedigrees (rosters of owners of particular specimens), showing duplication and misrepresentations in older, traditional lists.

The annual report of the director of the Mint stated that 24 dimes were minted at San Francisco in the first half of 1894.

The number known today is often given as “about a dozen.”

Jim Johnson, through research published in 1972 and 1973, listed 10 specimens.

Walter Breen listed pedigrees in his 1979 book on proof coins, then revised the list for his 1988 Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. Breen did some renumbering in this revision, ending with a possible 12th specimen, “unverified.” (This specimen is among the nine confirmed by Burd. It is the lowest graded-About Good-3, by the Numismatic Guaranty Corp-and has circular damage on the reverse.)

The auction firm Stack’s has provided lists of specimens through the years, when pieces come to it for sale. In 1990 sales of two specimens, Stack’s listed a total of 11 known.

David Lawrence, in his The Complete Guide to Barber Dimes (1991), listed 10 specimens. Photographs of five were in the book.

While doing research for the Lawrence book, Phil Carrigan discovered that a specimen supposed to have been in the collection of J.C. Mitchelson, donated to the Connecticut State Library, never was in that collection, Burd notes.

Burd speculates that other 1894-S dimes could have been destroyed in the Mint’s internal assays or in the coins reserved for the Assay Commission. Those would have been melted to test their content.

Burd also notes that collecting by mint mark was then a novel approach. A.G. Heaton had just published his Coinage of the United States Branch Mints in 1893. Any 1894-s dimes entering circulation could have been overlooked and lost.

Curiously, in reporting the non-existence of the Mitchelson specimen, Burd does not go into the details in this June 1900 report in The Numismatist:

“J.C. Mitchelson, of Kansas City, but who has business interests in San Francisco, and has been spending much time there, writes that he has discovered an 1894-S dime. The mint authorities there inform him that while twenty-four were originally struck, only fourteen went into circulation, the remaining ten being restruck. None remains in the mint.”

“Restriking” was the mint term for melting, recovering the metal and recoining.

Although two remaining specimens are in low grade, all are believed to have been struck as proofs or at least as prooflike specimens from fresh dies.

Mint Superintendent John Daggett has sometimes been pictured as deliberately creating instant rarities for selected pals.

This impression arises in part from a story attributed to Hallie Daggett, a daughter of the superintendent. Johnson related this tale as told by Hallie to coin dealer Earl Parker, to whom she sold two of the coins, and repeated by an acquaintance of Parker’s.

In this story, oft told since, a then young Hallie was present when Daggett had the dimes struck on the request of seven banker friends, each of whom received three. Daggett gave the remaining three to Hallie to save, but on the way home she spent one for ice cream.

Burd raises questions about this improbable account. He also dates Hallie’s sale of two of the dimes to 1950, not 1954 as in most accounts.

In the first half of 1894, Daggett would not have known that no order for dimes would come through later in the year. And certainly he made no secret of his limited minting.

It should also be noted that Mitchelson was told only 14 of the pieces were saved. Among those, two or more would have been reserved for assay.

The Professional Numismatists Guild has offered since February 1992 to authenticate any “new” 1894-S dimes for free. It has also offered to the first person to come forward with such a coin free round-trip airline tickets and hotel accommodations for three days and two nights at a major coin convention.

Since Donn Pearlman publicized this offer in the 1994 edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac (“Buddy Can You Spare an 1894-S Dime?” ), PNG has received hundreds of reports but no authentic specimen has turned up.

But as a result of the almanac story, “We get requests daily for our coin collecting book. A lot of it now is coming from that article by way of Ed Rochette’s column.” (Rochette’s coin column appears weekly in about 40 newspapers nationally.)

Persons reporting a possible 1894-S dime discovery, or wanting a free copy of the PNG booklet The Pleasure of Coin Collecting, may write to Paul Koppenhaver, Professional Numismatists Guild, P.O. Box 430, Van Nuys CA 91408.

A Cable News Network report on PNG’s offer did bring one specimen back on the market.

A non-collector, who nevertheless wanted to put some money into one of the great rarities he had heard of as a kid, bought the specimen in 1974 for $92,500.

On watching the CNN report, he called Superior Galleries and consigned it to auction, where in the summer of 1992 it brought $165,000, including 10% buyers fee.

Appearing with Burd’s article is a handy table, giving his own “B” number to each specimen, cross-referenced to Johnson, Breen, Lawrence and Stack’s; grade; distinguishing marks; and sale appearances.

The article and this listing are certain to be the new reference standard.

For additional information about the ANA or Burd’s article, contact the American Numismatic Association, 818 N. Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs CO 80903-3279.

Article as it appeared in Numismatic News, March 8, 1994

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