Jim Bisognani: Roosevelt Dimes Worth the Time

Posted on 5/28/2020

It doesn’t take long to see that 1946-1964 silver Roosy dimes are highly affordable and collectible.

As I sit down in my home office, it is the day after Memorial Day, our great national holiday remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Yet, this year, due to COVID-19 protocols and safeguards, Memorial Day weekend was unlike any that I have ever experienced. The lack of local and national festivities and family functions was obvious, as they were scarcer than those proverbial hen’s teeth.

Personally, I caught up on a lot of great holiday-themed movies shown on TCM over the weekend, as the network aired 31 films through Memorial Day evening. One of my favorites from 1946 — The Best Years of Our Lives — aired on the last night of the marathon. For those who haven’t seen it, this truly great film chronicles the readjustments from military to civilian life of three men and their families just after World War II.

Looking at the lavish local period drugstore and soda fountain used in several scenes got me thinking about the post-war boom for our great hobby. The year 1946 also marked the introduction of the longest-running and virtually unchanged US coin — one that was certainly heard ringing on the counters of drugstores and soda fountains everywhere — the venerable Roosevelt Dime.

A 1946 Roosevelt Dime in Mint State.
Click images to enlarge.

Who knows what length of service the popular Mercury Dime would have had if not for the death of FDR in 1945. Certainly, President Roosevelt’s courageous battle with polio and the befitting March of Dimes campaign made the newly designed dime by John Sinnock an appropriate choice for this time in history. For World War II veterans through millennial collectors, the Roosevelt Dime remains a familiar piece of pocket change.

One giant leap for mankind and coindexter

For me, the Roosevelt Dime was also the first series that I “completed,” albeit with the purchase of a set when I was 12 years old in the summer of 1969. I remember the day well because it coincided with a major historic event — the lunar landing of Apollo 11! As all the world was anxiously waiting to hear “The Eagle has landed,” I had my own mission earlier that Sunday afternoon.

My ritual for several years was to attend the local monthly coin show held at the Meadowbrook Hotel in my hometown of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. That fateful day, I purchased a complete and nearly uncirculated set of Roosevelt Dimes housed in a blue Whitman folder, all for the princely sum of $7.50!

Jim's set of Roosy Dimes in their blue Whitman folder.
Click image to enlarge.

I recall thinking that it was so neat to have a complete collection (at the time) covering the 1946-1964 silver coins and the clad coins from 1965-1969.  All I had to do was scope out my pocket change each year thereafter, and I would always have a complete circulation issue collection!

Anyway, after I returned home, proud of my acquisition, I quietly camped out in front of my family’s RCA console color TV. While I was waiting patiently for the first steps on the lunar surface by Neil Armstrong, I kept myself busy by taking a small soft gummy eraser to each of the dark and dirty Roosevelt Dimes. I remember taking quick breaks looking up at the TV and watching Walter Cronkite and the rest of the Apollo 11 coverage.

Ring around the Roosy

For the next decade, I dutifully filled the remaining allotted holes in that blue Whitman folder. I then branched out and assembled a really high-grade Roosevelt collection, including Proofs, and upgraded to a Dansco album to house my collection. A few days ago, I took some time to view and reminisce with both of these sets. How nice to become reacquainted with old friends!

A 1951 Proof Roosevelt Dime.
Click images to enlarge.

Now, with so many coindexters at home with their families, I think the Roosevelt Dime series would be a great collection to carefully assemble. Whether for the veteran hobbyist looking for a fun task, or the younger set and those new to our hobby, this is a great “get acquainted with numismatics” endeavor.

The coins when fully struck offer a rather handsome miniature medallic appearance. With no real stoppers in circulated grades, the silver collection from 1946-1964 can usually be put together at a bit over “melt” silver prices for a VG-XF collection. A mere 48 coins comprise the regular issue silver set, and today this could probably be purchased for around $75. You just need to supply an album.

However, there are so many ways to build a high-grade circulated set that you may want to think outside the box. Perhaps buy a mixed 90% junk US silver bag and, for fun, pull out as many silver Roosy dimes as you can, or target a complete certified collection of NGC Mint State examples!

Easy pickin’s

The Roosevelts of 1946-1964 are a bit of an anomaly as a series though. The most populous grade is MS 66 and MS 66 FT (Full Torch). In fact, jumping from MS 65 to MS 66, the population escalates by over 323%!  And from MS 65 FT to MS 66 FT, the percentage registers an increase of nearly 187%. Then elevating up to MS 67, according to the NGC Census, there is only about a 30% reduction in population compared to MS 66.

So, to put it bluntly, high-grade standard issue silver examples of this series are easy pickin’s!  Even the key date 1949-S reveals a monstrous 1,067 coins graded MS 67 (with an NGC Price Guide value of $80). Yet, in MS 67 FT, a mere 17 coins appear on the NGC Census with a valuation of $650!

Interestingly, the lowest pop numbers for regular MS designation silver Roosevelts in MS 67 are as follows:

MS 67 Census NGC Price Guide
1951-D 150 $80
1952 192 $80
1952-D 138 $50
1953 155 $60
1954-D 187 $110
1955-D 186 $50
1956-D 194 $35
1960-D 167 $80
1961-D 141 $75

For those interested in a touch (or more) of beguiling color, many of the silver Roosevelts plucked from US Mint sets will afford the collector a kaleidoscopic surprise.

A "key" date 1949-S Roosevelt Dime with rainbow toning.
Click images to enlarge.

Of course, many coins with the rainbow connection can command hefty premiums. However, considering that the average price tag is often under $20 for 1946-1964 MS 65 examples, whether the coindexter is tracking down brilliant frosty white coins or those splashed with color, it does make collecting the silver Roosy dime worth the time and effort!

Until next time, be safe and happy collecting!

Jim Bisognani is an NGC Price Guide Analyst. He has written extensively on US coin market trends and values.

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