A Proof 1975-S Roosevelt dime that's missing its 'S' brought a six-figure bid at auction

The auction price of $349,600 is the 11th highest of all time for a dime
By , Coin World
Published : 09/02/11
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A Proof 1975-S Roosevelt dime, distinguished from the other 2.8 million examples of the coin only by its lack of an S Mint mark, realized $349,600 during Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ Aug. 18 Rarities Night auction in Rosemont, Ill.

The price paid for the Professional Coin Grading Service Proof 68 1975-S Roosevelt, No S dime, one of just two examples known, is remarkable on several levels.

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The $349,600 is the 11th highest price realized at auction for a dime of any design or date. The Proof 1975 dime’s price is exceeded in the denomination only by auction realizations for examples of two classic rarities, the 1894-S Barber dime (10 known) and the unique 1873-CC Seated Liberty, No Arrows dime, and by single transactions for two rare die varieties of 1797 and 1804 Draped Bust dimes. Furthermore, based on auction price records published in the Eighth Edition of the Coin World Almanac, the price realized for the 1975 dime is the highest brought at auction for any U.S. coin struck since the second half of the 20th century, with only a few coins struck from 1901 to 1950 exceeding it in value at auction, including a 1944-S Lincoln cent struck on a zinc-coated steel planchet ($373,750) and several examples of the 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin (highest price at $3,737,500).

According to Stack’s Bowers Galleries, with just two pieces known, the Proof 1975-S Roosevelt, No S dime is one of the rarest U.S. coins struck since the production of the sole known example of 1873-CC Seated Liberty, No Arrows dime. Stack’s Bowers cites only the unique 1776-1976 Eisenhower, Bicentennial dollar struck on a silver-copper clad planchet as being rarer than the 1975 dime.

Although the Proof 1975-S Roosevelt, No S dime has been known since 1977, neither example of the coin had ever been exhibited publicly or offered at public auction until the piece sold in the Stack’s Bowers Galleries auction was consigned and auctioned.

Initial surfacing

The original owner of both 1975-S Proof sets containing the No S dime sent one of the sets to Coin World’s Collectors’ Clearinghouse in July 1977 for evaluation, without mentioning that two such sets were in her possession. The Clearinghouse staff, consisting of the department’s editor, Thomas K. DeLorey, and this author, could not verify that the coin was a full Proof. Instead, a letter dated July 29, 1977, was sent to the owner suggesting 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 original owner, a California collector who requested anonymity from Coin World, in the fall of 1977 sent the same set viewed by Coin World to the American Numismatic Association Certification Service, which authenticated the dime as a Proof strike. ANACS announced the authentication in January 1978, prompting Coin World to publish its first news article about the coin in its Feb. 22, 1978, issue. The same article reported that a second example had been reported but not verified. ANACS authenticated the second example a few months later, which was reported in the July 5, 1978, issue of Coin World. (At the time, ANACS had not revealed that the same person owned both sets, nor was Coin World aware of this fact; that information was a closely held secret known only to a few people until June 2011.)

As is typical when a significant new variety is reported, collectors and dealers began searching their 1975-S Proof sets for the dime variety after the first news reports. However, no other examples have been rumored or verified since the discoveries of the two sets.

Sets enter the marketplace

The original owner of the sets sold both in separate transactions to Fred J. Vollmer, then a Bloomington, Ill., dealer. Vollmer, now retired, told Coin World in late June 2011 that the seller contacted him after seeing his advertisements for earlier, similar Proof sets containing error No S coins. Vollmer said in 2011 that he conducted the transactions through the mail and never met the seller.

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