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Obverse of 1894-S Barber Dime     Reverse of 1894-S Barber Dime


PCGS No: 4805


Circulation strikes: 0
Proofs: estimated 24

Designer: Charles E. Barber

Diameter: 17.9 millimeters

Metal content:
Silver - 90%
Copper - 10%

Weight: 2.5 grams

Edge: Reeded

Mintmark: "S" (for San Francisco) just below the wreath on the reverse

The following is reprinted (with permission) from "The Complete Guide To Certified Barber Coinage" by David & John Feigenbaum:

"The 1894-S dime is one of those few American numismatic treasures that has transcended it's particular series to become one of the most famous of all U.S. coins. Just like the 1804 silver dollar and 1913 Liberty nickel, the 1894-S has an undeniable and mystical appeal which will excite collectors for years to come. It's often the case with such sought-after coins that they are not the rarest -- certainly there are U.S. coins with only one known survivor (for example, the 1866 no motto quarter and half dollar). But it's the story that makes the coin, and the 1894-S dime is no exception."

"First of all, the 1894-S dime is the only true rarity in all the Barber series (dimes, quarters and halves). Of the 24 pieces minted, just 9 coins are known to exist today and it is unlikely that any more will surface. Two of these are low-grade specimens while the others have survived without wear, though most have been mishandled in some way. The 9 specimens are well known and bear the "pedigrees" of some of the most famous numismatic collections ever assembled."

Farran Zerbe's Account

"The circumstances surrounding the production and distribution of the 1894-S dimes remain a mystery. In April 1928, The Numismatist (p. 236-237, the monthly publication of the American Numismatic Association) gave an account by Farran Zerbe, a former president of the ANA. The coins were struck, Zerbe said, to provide a balance of forty cents needed to close a bullion account at the San Francisco Mint by June 30, 1894 -- the end of the fiscal year. Since any even dollar amount ending in forty cents was acceptable, the employees were said to have struck 24 pieces, or $2.40. Mint employees weren't deliberately trying to create a rarity because they were still expecting orders to produce more 1894-S dimes before the end of the calendar year. But December 31 passed without a request for further production. Two or three pieces were obtained by Mint employees "just to have a new dime," Zerbe said; when they realized the coins were now rare, they sold them to collectors for $25 or more apiece. The remaining 1894-S dimes went into a bag with other dimes and into circulation."

"At the time of this article, only 3 or 4 specimens had been found. Zerbe's information, which he said was "obtained from the San Francisco Mint in 1905," is similar to an earlier account by J.C. Mitchelson, a Kansas City collector. Mitchelson said he was told by Mint employees that only 14 of the 24 coins went into circulation, the others to be restruck and presumably melted (The Numismatist, 1900, No.6). The "unintentional rarity" theory is probably the explanation the San Francisco Mint wanted to publish, rather than admit what may have actually occurred. In recent decades, however, Zerbe's and Mitchelson's accounts have been more or less debunked by new information."

What Really Happened?

"In 1972, coin journalist James Johnson, attempted a complete accounting of the 1894-S story. After the article ran in Coin World Collector's Clearinghouse (9/13/72), he received a letter from Guy Chapman of California. Chapman wrote that he had been shown two of the dimes in 1954 by California dealer Earl Parker, just after Parker had acquired them from Hallie Daggett, daughter of the San Francisco Mint superintendent John Daggett. Ms. Daggett told Parker that her father had minted 24 S-mint 1894 dimes as a special request for some visiting bankers. According to her account, Daggett struck the 24 pieces and presented three coins each to seven people. The remaining three, he gave to Hallie, telling her to "put them away until she was as old as he was, at which time she would be able to sell them for a good price." (Breen) As the story goes, Hallie immediately proceeded to spend one of the dimes on ice cream, but kept the other two until she sold them to Parker."

"Today, most experts accept the "made for banker friends" theory as the more likely one. Further evidence is in the fact that all seven of the remaining high grade coins seem to be proof strikes, made from specially-prepared dies and were carefully struck. It's quite unlikely that such care would be taken simply to "round out the books," but the process is logical for such purposes as presentation to bankers."

What An Investment!

"As a dealer who caters to collectors, we rarely tout coins as an investment vehicle, although many collectors certainly buy them for that purpose. In the case of the 1894-S dime, it is hard to overlook the significant gains made by those fortunate enough to own one of these exciting coins. In the last decade alone, the James Stack specimen sold at auction for $275,000 (January 1990, Stack's) and was recently sold by David Lawrence Rare Coins in private treaty for $825,000 (December 1998). With the way famous collectibles are appreciating in today's markets (coins, paper money, baseball memorabilia, art, etc.) it wouldn't surprise us to see this coin valued well into 7 figures the next time it comes on the market..."

History of the known Specimens:
June 15-16, 1950 - Numismatic Gallery's sale of the Adolphe Menjou collection, Lot 311.  "1894-S Dime.  The rarest dime at any of the mints.  This coin is one of the rarest of U.S. silver or, for that matter, gold coins.  There were only 24 specimens minted and of these only about 7 are known to exist.  We are proud to be able to offer this specimen which is the second we have sold at auction.  The Neil specimen brought $2,350.00 when he bought it as the W.G.C. [World's Greatest Collection] auction.  At that time we estimated its value at $2,500.00.  It would not surprise us at all to see this brilliant proof specimen of the exceedingly rare 1894-S dime bring at least $2500.00."  This specimen is not listed in the Breen or the Lawrence censuses.

Images courtesy of David Lawrence Rare Coins

The Pedigrees

The following pedigrees are from "The Complete Guide To Certified Barber Coinage" by David Feigenbaum (1991), with subsequent updates.  Feigenbaum identified ten different examples, listing them by "Lawrence" (his pseudonym) numbers.  Complete Guide to Barber Dimes, he identified 10 known specimens, one of which has been "de-listed" since its existence cannot be confirmed. The "Lawrence" numbering system has been used to identify each coin. For still more information, read . (Note: Lawrence-4 has been de-listed since the publishing of The Complete Guide to Barber Dimes in 1991 because its existence is now considered doubtful.)"

"Lawrence-1: Newcomer Specimen. Proof 60 Has a noticeable spot on Liberty's chin and the obverse shows evidence of being harshly cleaned. Owners include Waldo Newcomer; Boyd; A. Kosoff (1946); Will W. Neil (paid $2,350); B. Max Mehl, Hydeman ($13,000); Kosoff, Bowers-Empire; Hazen Hinman; Jim Kelly; Leo Young; RARCOA Auction '80 (Lot 1578); Ron Gillio (1986 for $145,000); anonymous collector ($93,100)."

"Lawrence-2: Eliasberg Specimen. PCGS Proof-65. Described in the Bowers & Merena Eliasberg Auction catalog: "Mostly brilliant centers changing to delicate gold at the borders. A tiny lint mark from neck to below chin will serve to identify this specimen." One of two pieces owned by J.M. Clapp, who most likely acquired them within a decade of their minting. Louis Eliasberg purchased Clapp's entire collection in 1942 for $100,000 and this coin was included (the collection was brokered by Stack's). The coin was purchased by Harvey Stack in the May 1996 Eliasberg Estate sale held by Bowers & Merena Auctions for $451,000 with buyer's fee (Lot 1250)."  According to a press release from Heritage (COIN WORLD, December 27, 2004, page 85), "...[this] coin has reportedly been dipped at least twice since the [Eliasberg] sale."  Sold by Heritage Numismatic Auctions in their January 2005 FUN Sale (Lot 30164) for $1,035,000.00 as a PCGS PR-65.

"Lawrence-3: James Stack Specimen. NGC Proof 66 -- previously graded PCGS Proof 66. Rose, blue and steel toning. The finest of all the 1894-S dimes. The second of the two pieces owned by J.M. Clapp and, later, Eliasberg (See Lawrence-2). Since this coin was a duplicate in Eliasberg's collection, it was made available. Stack's auctioned it off in 1947 and it was purchased by James A. Stack (no relation). It was later auctioned by Stack's in January 1990 (lot 206) for $275,000. Sold in December 1998 for $825,000 by David Lawrence Rare Coins into the Richmond collection.  Sold by David Lawrence Rare Coins in their March 2005 auction of the Richmond collection (Lot 1295) for $1,322,500.00 as an NGC Proof-66.

"Lawrence-5: Daggett-Parker-Johnson Specimen. PCGS Proof 65. Given by Mint superintendent John Daggett to daughter, Hallie at time of minting. Circa 1950, Daggett sold this and Lawrence-6 to California dealer, Earl Parker. Other owners include W.R. "James" Johnson; Abner Kreisberg; World-Wide Coin Co.; it was offered by Bowers and Ruddy Rare Coin Review (No.21, 1974) for $97,500; anonymous "mid-western" collector; purchased at Superior Galleries auction (August 1992) by Spectrum Numismatics for $175,000.00 - Heritage "FUN" sale, January 2005.  In 1991, this example was graded PCGS Proof-64 (see the Feigenbaum book).  When it reappeared in January 2005, it had been upgraded to PCGS PRBM-65.

"Lawrence-6: Jerry Buss Specimen. Impaired proof. Has been graded in various auction catalogs from XF to Proof-60. Reverse has a vertical scratch and what appears to be a planchet flaw on the lower right, extending into the mint mark. Authenticated by ANACS. The second Hallie Daggett coin, which was sold to Earl Parker. Other owners: James Kelly; Malcolm Chell-Frost; F.S. Gugenheimer; 1973 Kagin MANA Sale; Jerry Buss. Sold for $50,600 by Superior Galleries; Michelle Johnson; later sold for $70,400 by Superior Galleries in 1988. Current whereabouts: unknown. (Photo courtesy of Superior Galleries.)"

"Lawrence-7: Norweb Specimen. NGC Proof-62. Has a significant mark on Liberty's cheek. Maple leaf below 'D' is weakly struck. Faint vertical striations on the reverse. Light lilac and gray toning over gold surfaces. Owners include: Charles Cass; 1957 Stack's Empire sale for $4,750 (lot 881); Bowers & Ruddy; Q. David Bowers; Mrs. Norweb; sold in 1987 Bowers & Merena Sale of Norweb collection for $77,000; sold in 1990 Stack's 55th Anniversary Sale (lot 504) for $93,500. Current whereabouts: unknown. (Photo courtesy of Bowers & Merena.)"

"Lawrence-8: Rappaport Specimen. Grade unknown but probably an impaired proof which would not certify at PCGS or NGC due to mishandling. Owners include: A. Kagin; Reuter; Kreisberg; Bowers & Ruddy; Pennsylvania Estate."

"Lawrence-9: Ice Cream Specimen. Good-4 with an old reverse scratch through 'ONE DIME' plus some other light circulation marks on the obverse. Graded VG by New Netherlands. Authenticated after 1980 Steve Ivy sale by ANACS to Numismatic Funding Corp. Even though this is referred to as the famous "Ice Cream Specimen" there's no way to be certain that this is indeed the piece Hallie Daggett spent. Robert Freidberg bought this coin over the counter for $2.40 (24 times face value) at Gimbels Department Store, NY, in 1957. Later: A. Kagin; New Netherlands (1951, lot 581); A. Kagin; Harmer Rooke (Nov. 1969); James G. Johnson; sold for $34,100 at 1980 Steve Ivy ANA Sale (lot 1804); sold for $27,500 by 1981 Bowers & Merena ANA sale (lot 2921); private collector. (Photo courtesy of Bowers & Merena.)"

"Lawrence-10: Romito-Montesano Specimen. AG-3. Supposedly certified by NGC but does not show up in the Census Report. Has a circular cut on the obverse. Owners include: Romito (1911); consigned by Montesano to Stack's in 1942, but withdrawn; sold by John Hipps to Laura Sperber in 1990 to private collector for about $35,000."

11.  Adolph Menjou sale, 1950.  "Brilliant Proof."

PCGS has certified three 1894-S Dimes: two in PRNM-64 and one in PRBM-66.

Sources and recommended reading:
"The Complete Guide To Certified Barber Coinage" by David & John Feigenbaum

"The PCGS Population Report, October 2004" by The Professional Coin Grading Service

"The Inscrutable 1894-S Dime" by William Burd, The Numismatist, February 1994

"Daggett 1894-S dime available in FUN sale", COIN WORLD, pages 1 and 85