US Coins

Skepticism over 1894-S dime article

Numismatists are pretty much in agreement that a purported 1894-S Barber dime featured in a Sept. 17 article in the Rapid City Journal in South Dakota as a new discovery is actually a 21st century reproduction.

The article posted on the general circulation newspaper’s website was removed Sept. 18 soon after Coin World managing editor William T. Gibbs and others informed the publication’s editor of historical inaccuracies in the article and that the piece illustrated with the article resembles a modern replica.

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The Journal published a follow-up article Sept. 21, explaining the controversy. The reporter at that time had not been able to speak again with the person claiming to have sold the coin.

Before its removal, the original article’s contents were shared extensively throughout the coin community via the Collectors Universe U.S. Coin Forum online and E-Sylum, the e-newsletter of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society.

Only nine genuine examples are known from the 24 dimes documented as having been struck in 1894 at the San Francisco Mint. The provenance for the nine genuine 1894-S dimes is also well-documented.

The Rapid City Journal article chronicled the discovery of the purported 1894-S dime by an unidentified collector from the Black Hills of South Dakota. The collector is quoted as saying he had received the piece from his father.

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The collector claimed to have sold the purported 1894-S dime for $2.4 million in $100 bills stuffed in suitcases, proffered by a buyer reached through an internet solicitation by the collector. The newspaper article states the collector claimed the 1894-S dime had been authenticated, but did not disclose who did the authentication or who purchased the coin.

The first newspaper article was illustrated with a single image showing an individual holding what appears to be a Cameo Proof 1894-dated dime in a generic plastic rectangular encapsulation. The person’s face is not visible in the photo. A paper label inside the encapsulation suggests that dime is “Brilliant Uncirculated”; the photo accompanying that article, which depicted only the obverse, showed a piece that is bright white with mirrored fields and frosted devices. The second article notes that “the coin in the photo that accompanied the article was not purported to be the actual dime that was sold.”

The piece illustrated resembles an 1894-S Barber dime reproduction executed by Mike Bozynski’s Royal Oak Mint in Michigan.

Bozynski says if the piece shown in the first article is a Royal Oak Mint product, the upper left portion of the wreath on the reverse of the piece contains the word COPY.

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