The one million dollar dime

An extremely rare 1894 dime has sold at auction for more than a million dollars. It was bought at the Stack’s-Bowers Rarities Night Auction held by the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Chicago on  Thursday, August 16th, by Salt Lake City businessman and avid collector Dell Loy Hansen for a cool $1.32 million.

The dime was designed by Charles E. Barber, 6th Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint (1879-1917), whose stolid, practical, low relief designs — Liberty head in profile on the obverse, eagle and/or wreath on the reverse — held up so well to wear and tear that his coins continued to circulate well into the 1950s. The conservative look and longevity of the coins didn’t endear them to collectors initially, but the scarcity of the 1894-S dime put it in a class of its own among the Barber Coinage.

It’s a proof coin, one of only 24 1894-S dimes struck at the San Francisco Mint. It’s unknown why the San Francisco Mint only struck 24 of these dimes. Today only nine of those 24 are known to exist, and of those nine, two are heavily worn impaired proofs. The dime sold last week is graded PR-63 by the Professional Coin Grading Service, defined as an “average or slightly weak strike with moderate marks or hairlines.”

This acquisition fills a challenging gap for any collector of Barber Coinage and US Mint coinage in general. Hansen’s ambitious goal is to amass the first complete private collection of U.S. coins from 1792 to the present. This is known as the “Eliasberg Quest” after Louis E. Eliasberg, the only collector ever to reach this lofty goal.

Mr. Hansen, a Utah businessman and partner of [David Lawrence Rare Coins], has been an active collector since childhood, but has only rekindled his passion over the last three years. In that small time span, he has acquired what is widely considered to be the Greatest All-Time Collection of U.S. Coins. He commented, “This was an opportunity to buy yet another famous rarity for the growing collection. As the final piece of the Barber Coinage puzzle, we have now completed the collection of Proof and Circulation Strike sets of Barber Dimes, Quarters, and Halves. I never imagined that this incredible hobby would bring such excitement and joy, but I’m truly ecstatic to be able to be the caretaker of this famous piece of American History and to add it to the collection.”