I can’t say that I’ve ever looked twice at a Seated Liberty dime.
But a recent check of mintages, survival estimates and catalog values
convinces me it’s a sleeper’s sleeper.
The series begins with the stunning 1837 Seated Liberty, No Stars
Obverse dime. The one-year-type has a Philadelphia Mint mintage of
682,500 and a New Orleans Mint mintage of 406,034.
These mintages, which are about average for dimes minted up until
then, mark the 1837 Seated Liberty, No Stars Obverse dime as a fairly
common 19th century piece. Enough exist to meet demand.
In Good condition, the more common 1837 Seated Liberty Large Date
dime has a Coin Values value of $45. Even Mint State 60
pieces catalog for just a shade over $1,000. Professional Coin Grading
Service estimates 1,700 survive in all grades, with 300 grading MS-60
During the Civil War, the series becomes really interesting.
Mintages were comparatively small and most of those coins were
promptly melted. Few survive, but their values are moderate.
The 1861-S Seated Liberty dime has a mintage of 172,500. PCGS
estimates 250 survive in all grades, with only 10 Uncirculated pieces.
In Good condition, the coin has a Coin Values value of $50.
Uncirculated pieces, when you can find one, catalog for upwards of $5,000.
In 2010 and 2011, 1861-S Seated Liberty dimes made 10 appearances
at major actions, and most of those coins were clustered at the Very
Good to Very Fine grade range. Prices for well-worn pieces are
inexpensive, but the wait for one to come along can be long.
The 1866 Seated Liberty dime has a mintage of just 8,000 pieces.
PCGS estimates 400 survive, with 50 in Uncirculated condition. The
piece has a Coin Values value of $400 in Good condition and
just $1,700 in MS-60. A quick check of major auction houses shows that
11 have appeared at auction during the past two years.
The 1866 dime has a low mintage and is priced as a rarer piece in
lower grades. In Uncirculated, though, it is fairly common and trades
at a much lower price than high-mintage coins that did not survive as
well. If this was a 20th century piece it would sell for tens of
thousands of dollars.
For example, the 1916-D Winged Liberty Head dime is a key to the
series and one of the most desirable 20th century coins. Coin
Values lists the piece at $800 in Good and $12,000 in MS-60.
Of the 264,000 minted, PCGS estimates more than 10,000 survive,
and 700 of those are Uncirculated. Hundreds appear at auction every
year. Dozens can be found without much looking on bourse floors.
What a difference a century makes.
Gerald Tebben is editor of the Central States Numismatic