An example of one of the rarest of U.S. coins struck since the
1870s, a Proof 1975-S Roosevelt, No S dime, will appear at auction for
the first time in August.
Stack's Bowers Galleries will offer the coin, one of just two
pieces seen and authenticated since 1975, during its official auction
scheduled in conjunction with the American Numismatic Association
World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont, Ill.
The coin being auctioned has been authenticated by Professional
Coin Grading Service and its grade was being finalized as of June 2.
The coin was previously authenticated by the American Numismatic
Association Certification Service, or ANACS, in early 1978.
The coin is the rarest of six Mint mark-less Proof coins struck at
the San Francisco Assay Office or Mint between 1968 and 1990. All such
pieces were struck with an obverse die lacking the S Mint mark found
on all regular Proof coins struck at the San Francisco facility.
Until the early 1990s, Mint marks were added to individual working
dies at the Philadelphia Mint die shop, then distributed to the
various Mint production facilities. On at least six occasions,
defective dies were sent to the San Francisco facility for use in
producing Proof coins. Dies for Proof coins undergo additional
processing in order to achieve the highly mirrored surfaces, but in
each case, no one at the Mint facilities noticed the absence of the S
Mint mark from the dies.
The first example of the coin reported was first seen in July
1977, when the original owner, a collector who asked for anonymity,
sent the coin to Coin World's Collectors’ Clearinghouse
department for examination. The department was staffed at the time by
the Clearinghouse editor, Thomas K. DeLorey, and the author of this
article. The coin was housed within its original Proof set holder.
In a letter to the original owner dated July 29, 1977, written by
this writer with the approval of DeLorey, the opinion was given that
the dime was not a Proof strike. The letter suggested that the coin
may have been struck from regular dies on an impaired Proof planchet.
The San Francisco Assay Office was also striking circulation-strike
1975 Roosevelt dimes without Mint marks at the same time the Proof
coinage was in production, making such a mishap feasible.
The Clearinghouse staff noted “tiny scratches, dents, dings, and
other flaws on both sides of the coin” that were thought inconsistent
with a Proof strike, according to the July 1977 letter, a copy of
which remains in Coin World’s files. The letter’s writer
noted, however, that the comments were “just an opinion based on what
we have seen on your coin.”
After the set was returned, the owner sought a second opinion by
submitting the set to ANACS for authentication. At the time, ANACS was
owned by the American Numismatic Association and was strictly a
certification service. It did not offer grading opinions at the time.
In early 1978, ANACS reported that it had authenticated the dime
as a Proof strike after removing it from the plastic case housing the
set, which was reported on Page 1 of the Feb. 22, 1978, issue of
Coin World. The same article reported that a second example
had been reported but not verified. ANACS authenticated a second
example a few months later, reported in the July 5, 1978, issue of
Coin World. As was typical when a significant new variety was
reported, collectors and dealers began searching their 1975-S Proof
sets for the dime variety. However, no other examples have been
verified since the discoveries of the two sets.
According to Stack’s Bowers Galleries, “The presently offered coin
was purchased in February 1979 by dealer Fred Vollmer, a professional
who specialized in Proof coins and sets and appreciated the unique
opportunity. In 1980 Vollmer sold it to the present consignor as part
of a proof set. The set with the dime rarity has been off the market
for 31 years!” Stack’s Bowers Galleries notes that the appearance of
the coin in the ANA auction is a landmark, as the dime is “one of the
very few United States rarities listed in the Guide Book of United
States Coins that has never before sold at public auction!”
Notes the auction firm, “It is far and away the rarest United
States coin since 1874 (the 1873-CC dime is unique and is thus
rarer).” The firm estimates that the dime could bring a six-figure
result when it is sold at auction.
Not the first such set
Prior to the release of the 1975 dime, the San Francisco Assay
Office had produced three other Proof sets with coins lacking the S
➤ Proof 1968-S Roosevelt, No S dime: No mintage estimates have
been published. PCGS has certified 18 of these dimes and Numismatic
Guaranty Corp., six, per a study conducted by Stack’s Bowers Galleries
researcher Andrew W. Pollock III, using those services’ data bases.
Total certified by PCGS and NGC: 24.
➤ Proof 1970-S Roosevelt, No S dime: The Guide Book
estimates that 2,200 sets were made with this error. PCGS has
certified 197 of these and NGC, 37. Total certified by PCGS and NGC: 234.
➤ Proof 1971-S Jefferson 5-cent coin: The Guide Book gives
the precise figure of 1,655 as the mintage of sets (according to
information provided by the U.S. Mint) with this rarity. PCGS has
certified 164 of these and NGC, 54. Total certified by PCGS and NGC:
218. After release of the 1975 set, two more similar errors were
struck and released in Proof sets:
➤ Proof 1983-S Roosevelt dime: No mintage estimates have been
published. PCGS has certified 166 coins and NGC, 76. Total certified
by PCGS and NGC: 242.
➤ Proof 1990-S Lincoln cent: The set has an estimated mintage
figure of 3,555. PCGS has certified 126 and NGC, 40. Total certified
by PCGS and NGC: 166.
Why so few 1975 sets?
Why have only two 1975-S Proof sets been found with a dime sans
the S Mint mark?
DeLorey, who since he initially examined the set in July 1977 has
changed his opinion, now believing it to be a fully Proof strike, has
“The enigmatic 1975 ‘No S’ Proof dime remains one of the great
American numismatic rarities AND mysteries. I still believe it to be a
legitimate SFAO-struck piece, from a proofed die on a proofed planchet
and struck on a Proof press, but when I originally saw it I was not
aware that SFAO employees of that time were deliberately striking
error coins, including Proofs, and smuggling them out of the building
in the oil pans of fork lift trucks.
“If it was a legitimate die error, as happened in 1968, 1970 and
1971, then I suspect, but cannot prove, that the SFAO discovered the
error before the coins struck from this un-mintmarked die left the
mint, and dutifully destroyed all that they could find, but somehow
missed a few. The SFAO was aware of the ‘No S’ errors of 1968, 1970
and 1971, and would have been strongly motivated to try to prevent
another embarrassment from escaping.
“The fact that only one other coin has been discovered since we
first publicized it in Coin World may simply mean that my
hypothetical search and destroy mission was very thorough. One or two
more might still be discovered over the years, but no significant
quantity can exist. If I owned a 1975 Proof set, I would certainly
” As DeLorey noted, during the early and mid-1970s, employees of
the San Francisco Assay Office were illegally producing Proof coin
“errors” and smuggling them out of the facility to confederates who
would then sell them into the marketplace. The coins were placed into
the oil pans of forklifts that were taken outside the facility for
routine servicing. Confederates at the service facility would remove
the illicitly struck coins from the oil pans and sell them to willing buyers.
Many of the Proof “errors” were featured in such publications as
Coin World's Collectors’ Clearinghouse column and publicly
displayed. The pieces were spectacular and many were of sizes and
shapes that would preclude them from fitting into the hard plastic
cases used for Proof sets during the 1970s. Coin dealers eventually
contacted Mint officials about their suspicions that the pieces had
been deliberately made. Officials conducted an investigation that
uncovered the conspiracy.
No evidence suggests that the Proof 1975-S Roosevelt, No S dime
was struck deliberately, and clearly similar coins were produced in
quantity before and after 1975 and released through normal
distribution channels via Mint sales of Proof sets. DeLorey’s theory
that Mint officials had discovered that error dimes had been struck in
1975 and successfully prevented most from being released is supported
by the knowledge that Mint officials have conducted other “search and
destroy” missions for errors, some successful and others less so.
“It isn’t very often that one gets to see a U.S. coin that has
never appeared at auction. The 1975 no S dime is a legendary rarity
and I congratulate Stack’s Bowers on bringing this incredibly
important ultra rarity to auction” said David Hall, CEO of PCGS who
has authenticated the coin and whose graders are in the process of
grading this coin.
According to Stack’s Bowers Galleries, “The value of this treasure
can only be guessed at. There are no market transactions of which we
are aware. Among the related errors, a memorable auction price is
$48,875 for a 1968 No S dime. ... Of that particular variety, the
combined services have certified 23 coins. Although the 1975 No S
[dime] has never been auctioned, we know that it is eleven and a half
times rarer than the 1968-S [dime], in terms of auction appearances.
Take the $48,875 and multiply it by eleven and the result is a
valuation of over a half million dollars for the 1975! It also can be
figured other ways.”
For further information about the auction of the coin, contact
Christine Karstedt, firm vice president, at email@example.com, or
check the Stack’s Bowers Galleries website, found at www.stacksbowers.com. ■
An earlier version of this story suggesting that the dime
consigned to Stack's Bowers Galleries was the first piece reported was
based on incomplete information available at the time of publication.