With the Coinage Act of 1965 realizing its 50-year
anniversary, Coin World has a chance to revisit the the Coinage
Act as its grassroots in U.S. numismatics. Over the 1950s and 1960s,
as the public began to warrant interest, and the price of silver
rose, silver would become quite limited. These new dynamics were
solved by the use of clad compositions when creating dimes, quarter
dollars, half dollars and dollars moving forward.
Read the first post in our series on 50 years of clad coinage:
In 1963 the Treasury Department, concerned that the nation would run
out of silver, began studying alternative metals, hiring the Columbus,
Ohio, research operation, Battelle Memorial Institute, to investigate
The fruits of that study were released into circulation Nov. 1,
1965, as the nation turned its back on the nearly 175-year tradition
of silver coinage and switched to copper-nickel clad dimes and quarter dollars.
Silver prices had been rising since 1943, when an ounce of silver
averaged just 38.3 cents. Rising demand, especially in the photography
industry, pushed prices above 90 cents in 1956 and over $1 in 1961.
A complete clad coinage set contains one of the rarest United States
coins and some of the most common.
The Proof 1975-S Roosevelt, No S dime is a fabled rarity. Only two
are known to collectors and no more have surfaced since the 1979
discovery of the second example. In 2011, one sold at auction for $349,600.
At the other end of the scale are hundreds of date and Mint mark
combinations with mintages in the hundreds of millions and billions.
Before the introduction of clad coinage, collectors delighted in
circulation finds. Hobby publications were filled with reports about
lucky finds of 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cents and 1932-D Washington
quarter dollars. Even on the elementary school playground, kids were
telling tales about finding 1955-S cents — the hardest hole to fill in
the popular Whitman Lincoln Cent Book II coin folder.
Clad coins are produced for three purposes: circulation-strike coins
for circulation, circulation-strike coins for collectors (think half
dollars since 2002), and Proof pieces for collectors.
Clad coins, which are struck by the billions each year, offer few
opportunities for pocket-change collecting. None of the hundreds of
date and Mint mark combinations is even remotely scarce in circulated condition.
Just three coins — a dime and two quarter dollars — stand out as
worth looking for in circulation, and all are errors.
The 1982 Roosevelt, No P dime touched off a wave of change-scouring
when stories started appearing in Ohio and Pennsylvania newspapers
about the discovery of odd dimes that did not have a Mint mark. Since
1980 every circulating coin, except cents, has a Mint mark above the
date. These dimes, though, were blank.
The Philadelphia Mint had neglected to place a Mint mark on two
dies. Coins struck by the rarer of the two dies — “strong strikes” —
surfaced in Sandusky, Ohio. Many were unknowingly given out in change
at the city’s Cedar Point Amusement Park. Less desirable coins came
from the second or “weak strike” die. These were released in Pittsburgh.
Strong-strike 1982 No P dimes catalog for $200 in MS-65 in Coin
World’s Coin Values. Weak-strike coins are not cataloged there,
but tend to sell for less than half of strong-strike coins.
Twenty-two years later, another Mint error commanded the public’s
attention — 2004-D Wisconsin quarter dollars with extra corn leaves.
These were released in the Tucson, Ariz., area, though there have been
scattered reports about finds in other parts of the country.
The Extra-Leaf quarters come in two variants — low, in which the
extra leaf on the left side of the ear of corn touches the round of
cheese below; and high, in which the extra leaf touches another leaf
Over the years several theories have been put forth for the coins,
ranging from playfulness on the Denver Mint’s night shift to damage
caused by a dropped piece of equipment.
The High-Leaf coins catalog for $300 in MS-65 in Coin World’s Coin
Values. Low-Leaf coins are valued at $200 in the same grade.
Some clad coins, especially from the early years, tend to be scarce
to rare in high grades. Several dimes, quarter dollars and half
dollars command prices of $500 to more than $1,000 in MS-67 and higher.
Intent on fast production, the Mints let quality slide. Eric
Justice, who compiles modern cataloging for Coin Values, said, “Clad
in the early days just didn’t survive the minting process and bank
distribution process without getting banged around.”
Early clad coins, too, weren’t save in bulk, making it difficult now
to buy “fresh, BU rolls,” he said. “I honestly believe the lack of
nice clad coinage from the early days of clad was due to no one
caring. The focus was avoiding these coins! Everyone’s focus was
SILVER. Coin collectors flocked to banks going through fresh change
and looking for Silver.”
Uncirculated Mint sets, a common source for higher grade
Uncirculated pieces, were badly produced and badly packaged. “They
most certainly went through normal mint processing down to coin bins
banging together. Looking at 1970s mint sets with a loupe you will see
many small scratches. It appears as if the mint swept the floor with
these coins before they put them in the cellophane!”
Quarter dollars from 1982 and 1983 are the worst of the worst. While
mintages run in the half-billion range, almost all are dogs. The
1983-P Washington quarter dollar is particularly hard to find in nice
Uncirculated. The coin catalogs for $25 in MS-60 in Coin World’s Coin Values.
Some clad coins, notably the 1996-W Roosevelt dime and 1970-D
Kennedy half dollar, were produced in circulation-strike quality, but
were not placed in circulation. The only way to get them was in
Uncirculated Mint sets.
The 1996-W dime, the first dime to bear a West Point Mint mark, was
placed in that year’s Mint set to mark the 50th anniversary of the
Roosevelt dime. In MS-65 the coin catalogs for $25 in Coin World’s
The 1970-D half dollar caught the collecting world by surprise.
While it’s bracketed by high-production Denver Mint mintages, only 2.2
million were struck, all for placement in that year’s Uncirculated
Mint sets. In MS-65, the coin catalogs for $65.
The rarest clad coins are a quartet of Proof dimes — 1968, 1970,
1975 and 1983 — made without the S Mint mark.
In Proof 65, the 1968-S Roosevelt, No S dime catalogs for $17,500
and the 1970 and 1983 dimes at $900. About a dozen 1968 No S dimes and
500 each of the 1970 and 1983 No S dimes are believed to exist.