From the Grading Room: Proof 1891-O Seated Liberty Dime

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The field of branch mint proof coins is one of some uncertainty, and expert analysis is needed to determine which coins do and do not qualify as a proofs. Decades ago, many coin dealers rather cavalierly labeled as proofs any coins having prooflike qualities, but the widespread certification of United States coins has mostly eliminated such speculative claims.

Presented here is an example that will satisfy any skeptic. This 1891 dime from the New Orleans Mint is boldly struck from polished dies and displays the characteristic “fabric” of a proof. Richly toned, it displays broad borders and fully mirrorlike fields. Liberty’s head, typically weak and featureless on currency strikes, is quite distinctly wrought in this lovely proof.

The occasion for producing this single known proof of the 1891-O dime is not documented, though the likely impetus was the resumption of dime coinage at that mint following an interruption of more than 30 years. Walter Breen reported proofs for the 1891-O quarter dollar and silver dollar, and indeed NGC has certified a single quarter as a Specimen striking, but there is no mention in numismatic literature of a dime proof.

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