1894 dime brings $2 million at Florida auction


The San Francisco mint coined but two dozen 10-cent pieces in 1894. Today, just nine are known to exist. One was sold earlier this month for an astounding $2 million at a Florida auction.

The 1894-S Barber dime is one of the legends of American coin collecting, along with the 1804 US dollar and a 1913 Liberty nickel, and is among the most sought-after numismatic rarities.

The coin sold on Jan. 7 to an unidentified buyer during the Florida United Numismatists show at the Tampa Convention Center is the finest of the nine known surviving examples, described as a “premium gem” by Heritage Auctions.

The story behind the 1894-S dime is an interesting one.

The San Francisco Mint struck nearly 2.5 million Barber dimes in 1893, and planned another substantial mintage in 1894.

However, the financial downturn of 1893 caused a widespread and long-lasting economic recession, and there was little demand for small change in the shrinking economy. As a result, just 24 10-cent pieces were struck at the San Francisco facility in 1894.

Of that number, two coins were sent to Mint Director Robert Preston in Philadelphia in early June 1894, for assay, per mint policy. These were melted and assayed.

On June 25, 1894, two more examples were assayed as part of the monthly assay at the San Francisco Mint. A fifth specimen was sent to Philadelphia on June 28 to be reserved for the annual Assay Commission, which met early in 1895 to test and review the coinage from the previous year.

That left 19 surviving 1894-S dimes. Some of these, it would appear, were placed in a bag of dimes and released into circulation, while others were obtained by mint personnel at face value.

At that time – June 1894 – no one apparently realized that there would be no further orders for dimes in 1894 at the San Francisco Mint, according to Heritage Auctions, which explains why several examples were released into circulation.

While at least two of the known examples are coins that were found after being in circulation for lengthy periods of time – including one taken over the counter at a Gimbels department store in New York in 1957 – several others could still be out there, unknowingly squirreled away.

Conversely, the remainder may have been, at various times, unwittingly melted down.

If I had the time or inclination, I would calculate the rate of appreciation that the above-mentioned dime has undergone during the past 122 years. But we’ll just call it mucho grande and leave it at that.

Great Nickel Caper evidence of penny-ante criminals at work

boxes of nickels

Not only is it not quite on par with the Great Train Robbery or the JFK Lufthansa Heist, but the Great Nickel Caper of 2015 may be among the most irrational crimes ever committed, at least in terms of cost-effectiveness.

Recently, 183 boxes of nickels were purloined from a residence in North Naples, Fla., during a house party. The value of the 360,000 5-cent pieces was $18,000. The weight of the nicked nickels? Nearly 4,000 pounds. (Among questions that come to mind is why anyone would have 360,000 nickels in their home?)

The coins were stored in blue and white boxes the size of large bricks, according to a South Florida television station.

Detectives are asking the public to be especially alert at places where individuals can redeem change, such as at banks or grocery stores with coin-counting machines, reported WFTX-TV.

Thieves also made off with a .12-gauge shotgun, a .45-caliber firearm and miscellaneous ammunition, possibly to protect their ill-gotten booty as they made a very, very slow getaway.

In all seriousness, what does one do with 360,000 nickels? I suppose you’d never have to worry about having money for parking meters, but other than that – and heading to a gambling casino to play the nickel slots until your arm falls off – it seems like you’ve bought yourself more problems than the $18,000 is worth.

Then again, criminals usually aren’t noted for being deep thinkers.

And the casino scenario isn’t even realistic. Besides loading up a U-Haul, how would you get the money to gambling establishment without attracting undo attention?

On the plus side, one supposes the nickel nabbers have a great start on a coin collection, narrow though it may be.

(Top: Boxes of nickels similar to those stolen from a North Naples, Fla., home last month.)

Canada to melt down 200K+ gold coins

10-Canadian gold coin

Concerned that its gold reserves would disappear with the outbreak of World War I, Canada withdrew nearly 250,000 newly minted gold coins from circulation in 1914.

The currency, minted between 1912 and 1914, represented the first gold coins ever minted by Ottawa. The coins would spend the next century in cloth bags inside a Bank of Canada vault.

Some 30,000 of the $5 and $10 pieces were offered for sale to collectors late last year, but the remainder will be melted down, part of the Conservative government’s efforts to help balance the country’s books.

The $10 coins sold for either $1,000 or $1,750 each, depending on whether they were classified as “premium” quality or not, according to the Globe and Mail.

Final figures connected with the sale, which just closed, won’t be known until spring, but a mint official confirmed that nearly all coins were sold.

The publication, in fact, described the sale as a creating a bit of gold rush among Canadian collectors.

“It’s the most popular topic for 2013, for sure,” said Michael Wang, a Vancouver coin collector who bought individual coins and also paid $12,000 for a six-coin set. “My wife was about to kill me when I told her I bought this thing.

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When counterfeit dimes were worth the effort

1861 counterfeit dime

The practice of counterfeiting money is as old as money itself.

Archaeologists have discovered counterfeit examples of coins produced in Lydia, a Roman province said to be the locale of the first metallic coinage, dating back to the 7th century BC.

Today, we tend to think of counterfeiters as individuals who mass produce paper money, usually in large denominations – $20 or higher.

But until relatively recently, nearly all counterfeit money came in coin form. This was because until relatively recently nearly all money came in coin form, and was known as “hard money” because it contained a commodity such as gold or silver which gave it intrinsic value.

A short 1884 article in the New York Times highlighted just how valuable even small coins – albeit those made of silver – were 130 years ago.

MARLBOROUGH, N.Y. – Counterfeit silver dollars, quarters and ten-cent pieces are being circulated in a number of the Hudson River counties. The quarter dollars and dimes are said to be very good imitations of genuine money. It is said that ticket agents on the line of the Hudson River Railroad have been told to scrutinize carefully all silver offered in payment for tickets. It is believed that the counterfeits were first put in circulation about three weeks ago.

Today it seems difficult to imagine someone going to the difficulty of attempting to counterfeit a dime, never mind working hard enough at it to do it well.

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In Canada, the penny hangs on tenaciously

canadian pennies

The Canadian penny is showing it’s not going down without a fight.

Nearly two months after the Royal Canadian Mint stopped distributing the one-cent piece, the coin continues to circulate, causing some confusion north of the border.

That’s because when government officials announced the mint would end the penny’s run after more than 150 years, many people thought the cent would no longer be used.

But that’s not quite the case, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

“Businesses don’t have to turn over the pennies they collect to the bank and they can decide if they want to keep using Canada’s smallest currency, even though it’s not being produced,” the CBC reported.

Pennies still remain legal tender in Canada, it added.

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Coin, misplaced for 50 years, brings $360K

1796 half cent

Face value, the small copper coin that went under the auctioneer’s hammer Tuesday represented the smallest denomination of currency the United States ever produced – just half a cent.

But in one of the more astonishing bits of numismatic lore, the 1796 Liberty Cap half cent sold for nearly $300,000 – nearly $360,000 with auctioneer’s premium – meaning the coin increased in value 71,600,000-fold over the 210-plus years since it was minted in Philadelphia during George Washington’s presidency.

The rare half cent, sold at a small provincial auction in southwest England, went to an American bidder from the Numismatic Financial Corp. of Winter Springs, Fla., according to CBS News.

The final price, perhaps not surprisingly, is one of the highest ever paid for a half cent.

The coin bears a liberty head design on one side, with a pole and liberty cap in the background. The reverse features an open wreath of olive stems tied with a ribbon.

Half cents were minted by the US from 1793 until 1857.

The story of the coin sold Tuesday is both fascinating and perplexing.

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One-of-a-kind dime fetches $1.84 million

The two existing United States mints produce coins at a staggering rate. Since 1999, more than 180 billion pennies, dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollar pieces have been turned out by the Philadelphia and Denver mints.

In the year 2000 alone, the Philadelphia mint alone coined more than 1.8 billion 10-cent pieces. That’s five dimes for every man, woman and child in the US just in that year alone.

Alas, mints didn’t always produce coins in such prodigious amounts.

Take, for example, the Carson City, Nev., mint, which in 1873 struck just 12,400 Seated Liberty dimes of a variety collectors designate as “without arrows,” for its lack of arrows on the obverse, on either side of the date.

All were produced in a single day.

Just one example of that brief run is known to exist, and it was auctioned for $1.84 million in Philadelphia late last week.

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