The Barber-dime series, produced from 1892 to 1916, is a relatively easy collection to complete in circulated grades. There is only one key date, the 1895-O (we’re excluding the extremely rare 1894-S), and even for that coin a collector could certainly hope to acquire an example in collectable condition for less than $1,000. For many other American coin series a complete collection would require several of those coins, making the Barber-dime series a great place to start for a collector on a budget. In this article we will highlight five coins that a collector can hope to acquire for less than $100 that provide a strong foundation for a dedicated collection of Barber dimes. Many other dates in this series can be found for less than $50 in circulated grades. Of course, as always, originality is key, and original Very Fine / Extremely Fine examples of this series are surprisingly difficult to find, despite rather low prices.
The first Barber dime we will take a closer look at is the 1895-S. While the New Orleans Mint produced the scarcest issue of the series that year, the San Francisco issue is not particularly common either, despite a rather generous output of 1,120,000 coins. Uncirculated examples are very scarce, and can easily cost several thousand dollars, especially in Gem Uncirculated condition (at that level this is one of the scarcer dates in the series). A nice Fine, however, can be acquired for right around $100 and will provide strong detail and an appealing coin for the money.
Spend a Little More: A notoriously difficult date to find in original EF condition, examples of this date at that grade level start at about $200 and go up from there, depending on originality and eye appeal. At that level I believe this date is an excellent buy, as strong About Uncirculated examples can cost quite a bit more, and a certified Uncirculated coin starts at about $750 and goes up from there.
The Denver Mint opened in 1906, and Barber dimes were among the first pieces produced at the Colorado facility. While the first year of issue is generally available thanks to its mintage of just over 4 million pieces, the 1907-D Barber dime is scarcer, despite a similar mintage. Notable expert on the series David Lawrence once attributed the scarcity of this date to the disappearance of four wagons full of freshly minted dimes in 1907 in the Black Canyon in Western Colorado. Whether this is true is unknown, but it is an interesting story, and it makes this scarce coin all the more interesting. $100 should get you a nice EF or even an AU—and a coin that was definitely not lost that year.
Spend a Little More: This is another issue where uncirculated examples jump in value. Original uncirculated coins start at $400 for certified MS-62’s and go up from there. A certified AU-58 might be a better option at approximately half that, but very few of this date have been certified at that level and they are generally in strong demand.
After a long history (which included an 18-year closure after the outbreak of the Civil War), the New Orleans Mint closed for the final time in 1909, but not before striking 2,287,000 Barber dimes for circulation. A very popular issue because of its status as the last dime from the New Orleans Mint (the first were struck in 1838 shortly after the opening of the Mint and were of the Liberty Seated design, which would be replaced in 1892 by the Barber design), the issue can be found in circulated grades with relative ease, but original, sharply struck examples are scarce. For $100 a strong VF can be found with some searching, but as this series is particularly popular in that grade, expect strong competition.
Spend a Little More: Another date that jumps in value at the uncirculated level, a few hundred dollars will get you a nice EF of this date and a very collectable coin. At that grade level, coins of this type show modest wear and generally retain most of their design elements.
The 1913-S has the second-lowest circulation-strike mintage of the series, after the 1895-O, yet remains very affordable in circulated grades. Just 510,000 pieces were produced for circulation, yet a decent Fine will only cost about $100. This makes it a coin of tremendous value, as the 1895-O, with a mintage of 440,000 pieces, would cost at least six times as much in the same grade. When you compare the 1913-S with, for example, the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent, which had a mintage of 484,000 pieces and costs quite a bit more, it is amazing that a coin with such a low mintage remains relatively affordable. Of course, the Lincoln wheat cent series is a lot more popular than the Barber-dime series, but I believe both beginning and advanced collectors should not disregard the Barber dimes, as they can provide a lot of enjoyment to hunt down the various dates.
Spend a Little More: Perhaps even more wondrous is the fact that original EF’s of this date will only set you back about $300, and AU’s aren’t much more than that. Personally, for this having the second-lowest mintage of the entire series, I think that’s tremendous value—but don’t expect to find such a coin easily, as they are actually quite scarce and surprisingly difficult to find.
Uncirculated Type Coin
If you’re just looking for a single type example of this series your best bet will be some of the Philadelphia issues, which had high mintages and can be found with relative ease. For $100 a nice uncirculated coin is certainly within the realm of possibility, although you won’t have an endless supply of coins to choose from. Most of the 20th-century dates from the Philadelphia Mint should not cost much more than $100 for an MS-62 or so, and there’s really not all that much difference from date to date, meaning that you should try to find an appealing example that fits your budget.
Spend a Little More: While Gem Uncirculated examples cost more as type collectors seek such coins, strong MS-64’s aren’t really that expensive in the grand scheme of things. For just over $200 you should be able to find a nice certified example at that grade level, and if you can find one that is fully original with a strong strike and pleasing surfaces you have found yourself an excellent type representative for the Barber-dime series. ❑