Learn Grading: What Are Full Bands and Full Torch?

Posted on 9/11/2018

NGC’s designations give collectors a more comprehensive assessment of dimes from the past century.

NGC uses a numeric grade to succinctly describe a problem-free coin's condition. Certain coins, however, are eligible for a more nuanced description of their condition and appearance. For these coins, NGC graders follow the numeric grade with a range of designations, often called "Strike Characters."

The Mercury dime series (1916-1945) and the Roosevelt dime series (1946-Date) are attractive targets for collectors due to their affordability and memories associated with their widespread use in commerce. The beloved design of the Mercury Dime has its roots in America’s “coinage renaissance” a century ago.

The reverse of the Mercury dime features a fasces, a group of rods held together by bands at the top, center and bottom. To qualify for NGC's Full Bands (FB) designation, the two central bands (seen at the center of the coin) must show full separation (with a recessed area between them). The top and bottom groups of bands must also show separation.

LEFT: Reverse of 1935-S Mercury Dime, graded NGC MS 67+. RIGHT: Reverse of 1917 Mercury Dime, graded NGC MS 67+ FB.
Click images to enlarge.

Depending on the year and mintmark combination, the FB designation can be extremely rare. For instance, NGC has certified several thousand 1945-D Mercury dimes, and more than a third of them qualified for the Full Bands designation. Meanwhile, NGC has certified a similar number of 1945 Mercury dimes, but fewer than 30 have earned the FB designation. Consquently, the 1945 Mercury dimes with the Full Bands designation carry a substantial premium.

The Roosevelt dime (the successor to the Mercury dime) features a torch on its reverse, with bands at the top and bottom. To qualify NGC's Full Torch (FT) designation, both pairs of these bands must show full separation, and the vertical lines of the torch must be defined.

LEFT: Reverse of 1988-D Roosevelt Dime, graded NGC MS 67. RIGHT: Reverse of 1984-P Roosevelt Dime, graded NGC MS 66 FT.
Click images to enlarge.

Dimes do not need to be Mint State to qualify for the FT and FB designations, but it should be no surprise that most that qualify are Mint State. These designations are not used for Proof dimes, which are assumed to have been well-struck.

Points of interest on the Mercury dime, left, and Roosevelt dime that determine the FB and FT designations, respectively.

The FB and FT strike characters can be combined with the strike characters for "PL" (for Prooflike) and "DPL" (for Deep Prooflike). The full list of strike characters available exclusively for dimes is as follows:

(how the strike character appears in the NGC Census) (how the strike character appears on the NGC label) (a verbal description of the strike character) (the types of coins to which it applies)
FB FB Full Bands Mercury Dimes Only
FBD FB DPL Full Bands, Deep Prooflike Mercury Dimes Only
FBP FB PL Full Bands, Prooflike Mercury Dimes Only
FT FT Full Torch Roosevelt Dimes Only
FTD FT DPL Full Torch, Deep Prooflike Roosevelt Dimes Only
FTP FT PL Full Torch, Prooflike Roosevelt Dimes Only

Coins with certain strike characters are often more highly prized by collectors. As a result, strike characters are separated on different lines for each coin in the NGC Census to give a better understanding of its relative rarity. The NGC Price Guide also lists the FB and FT designations separately.

NGC assigns these strike characters automatically as part of its normal grading process for no additional fee.

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