Many collectors start out as young children building collections mainly for show. As they grow and mature, so too do their collections. No coinage helps nurture the love of this hobby like the famed and controversial barber dime. It’s rare enough to be valuable yet plentiful enough to find. Low to mid-grade pieces are still easy to acquire while scarcer pieces make it challenging to assemble an entire series.
The barber dime has a rich history and most were heavily used in their time. They were considered the workhorses of commerce along with their other barber series friends, the quarter and half-dollar. The first barber dimes were first minted in Philadelphia in 1892 as the result of a Treasury Department design contest which was considered an epic failure.
1894-S Barber Dime Becomes an Unintentional Rarity
The piece was named for its designer Charles E. Barber who seemed the best pick from the debacle of a contest. The barber dime underwent multiple changes throughout its production. During the first few mints up until the year 1900, the wreath’s leaves had rounded tips. The 1900 through 1916 run gave Liberty’s wreath leaves more pointed tips. After 1916, there were differences in the ribbons and Mint marks, depending on production location.
All told, nearly 600 million Barber dimes were produced and put into circulation. Over the years millions have been lost, damaged, or melted down for their silver but they can still be found with relative ease. Swelling demand has seen the value of Barber dimes jump dramatically over the last fifty years. The 1894-S Barber dime is the most coveted today. Only 24 of these particular dimes were minted in San Francisco in 1894, probably to round out the total for the fiscal year.
They had no idea they were producing an unintentional anomaly. Nine of these Barber dimes can be traced today, and they are valued at nearly $1 million or more each.
The Special Appeal of These Silver Coins
The Barber dime has seen an unintentional rise to fame while still being attainable by all classes of people. A most important characteristic of these coins is their grade. Many have passed through thousands of unsuspecting hands who wore down the markings until the faces were almost smooth. The ones still in the most pristine condition are considered beautiful in their simplicity. It is one of the earliest dime series that can be collected by date as well as mintmark, with a total of 74 possible combinations. Some grades have risen in value more than 100 percent over the years.
Baber dimes were often given for the birth of a child as a memento of their birth year. As a result, many continue to be available in relatively high grades passed down from generation to generation. The popularity of these classic coins has swelled to the point of an elite collector’s club. The Barber Coin Collector’s Society was formed in 1989 as a way for dedicated dealers and collectors to interact. Nobody could have predicted the popularity of this special coinage, but the Barber dimes are fun to collect, and their value also continues to rise.