The Barber Dime was created by the famous engraver Charles E. Barber who worked at the United States Mint from 1979 to 1917. Barber’s design also featured on the Quarter and Half Dollar, replacing the Seated Liberty coinage. Produced from 1892 to 1916, Barber Dimes have become some of the most sought-after coins in America and beyond, especially the legendary 1894-S issue.
On the obverse of the Barber Dime is a right-facing bust of Liberty, wearing a Phrygian cap. A laurel wreath can also be seen on her head, as well as a headband inscribed LIBERTY. She is surrounded by the engraving UNITED STATES OF AMERICA with the date situated below her neck. The reverse displays a wreath composed of wheat, corn and oak leaves, which encircles the text ONE DIME.
Interestingly, Charles E. Barber was only given the job of designing the Dime after the Mint had exhausted all of its other options.
After a bill was passed in 1890 authorizing changes to coins that had circulated for a minimum of 25 years, mint director James P. Kimball ordered a change to the U.S. Dime, Quarter and Half Dollar. While Charles E. Barber believed he was the man for the job, the Mint had other ideas.
Ten leading artists and sculptors were invited to create new designs for the coins; however, they all pulled out before the competition had even begun. This was mainly down to the fact that the Mint had only enough money to pay the winner, meaning the other entries would get nothing for their efforts. Kimball wasn’t going to give up on finding new talent to design the coins that easily though.
Shortly after his first failed attempt to source new designs, Kimball organized a second contest, only this time it was open to the public. When the panel of judges (which included Barber and the skilled Augustus Saint-Gaudens) met in June 1891 to view hundreds of entries, it was decided that not one of the drawings was appropriate for the coins. By now, Edward O. Leech was mint director and he was frustrated that the competition hadn’t been a success, so he ordered Barber to sketch new designs. Barber was, of course, delighted because he wanted the job from day one.
The Barber Dime was first minted on January 2, 1892 and issued until 1916. Although more than half a billion Barber Dimes were struck over the years, some issues have very low mintages, especially the 1894-S coin. Produced at the San Francisco Mint, this particular issue is not only the greatest rarity in the Barber Dime series but also one of the rarest United States coins.
Just twenty-four 1894-S Barber Dimes were struck at the San Francisco Mint, however, no one can be certain why so few were made. According to experts, it was Superintendent J. Daggett at the San Francisco Mint that ordered the mint to produce no more than 24 Barber Dimes that year. Some believe the coins were given to bankers as gifts, while others follow the theory that the coins were struck to compensate for a discrepancy in the mint’s annual audit.
We do know that three of the coins were given to Daggett’s daughter Hallie who was told to keep hold of the coins until she was older because they would be worth a lot of money by then. Hallie used one of her Barber Dimes to purchase some ice cream shortly after her father gave her the coins and sold the other two pieces in the 1950s. Out of the 24 Barber Dimes minted at San Francisco in 1894, only 10 are known to exist. Some of these specimens have been sold at auctions in recent times and fetched well over a million dollars each.
Thankfully, many 90 percent silver Barber Dimes have survived into present times which is great news for collectors and investors. The coins were struck at four different mints including Philadelphia (no mintmark), San Francisco (S), New Orleans (O) and Denver (D), and were replaced with the Mercury Dime in 1916.
Barber Dimes have a fairly simple design compared to many other American silver coins, but they are still extremely sought after nonetheless. Even though Barber Dimes in lower grades are commonly found, it’s fair to say that most dates are considered scarce in high grades. Proofs were made every year throughout the series too, with the 1893/2 overdate issue being the rarest of them all.
If you have any questions or would like help with finding Barber Dimes, please feel free to get in touch with Capital Gold Group. Not only do we have various dates in stock but we can also source any rare Barber Dimes for your collection or portfolio.