Issued between the early 1890s to the early 1910s, the Barber Dime was the replacement of the Seated Liberty design used since the 1830s. Calls to change the Seated Liberty coin rang loudly since 1879, however change didn’t come until 1892. The Barber coins were in circulation until 1916.
More than half a billion Barber dimes were produced in its nearly 25-year run. As such, it’s not hard to obtain any of the coins in the series. However, the 1894 dime minted at the San Francisco Mint is quite rare – only 24 were produced.
History of the Barber Dime
The Seated Liberty design was in circulation for more than fifty years, but there were rumblings about the need for change even before it hit the half-century mark. Owing to a change in artistic tastes, many believed the design to be bland.
Although new designs were submitted since the 1880s, the Mint was only able to produce a new nickel in 1883. A public competition for new coin designs was opened to the public, but only two out of the over 300 submissions were deemed suitable.
When the Mint got a new director, he scraped committees and public discussion and simply asked the chief engraver, Charles Barber, to make new designs. Barber used the head on the Morgan dollar as basis. He added a Liberty cap and cropped Liberty’s hair at the back. Barber also added his initial “B” on the truncated portion of the neck. The reverse of the coin featured the same wreath from the Seated Liberty dime produced from 1860 to 1891.
The New Barber Dimes
The first edition of the new Barber dimes were created in 1892. More than half a billion pieces were made in its nearly 25-year run. As such, it isn’t difficult to collect a coin from this series. The notable exception is the 1894 dime made at the San Francisco Mint – only 24 pieces were produced, making it a rarity.
Four mints created the dimes designed by Barber, some issuing pieces in small amounts while others creating millions. Coins struck in Philadelphia didn’t feature any mintmark while those created in Denver, San Francisco, and New Orleans are marked D, S, and O, respectively.
It is possible to complete a set of these coins, except for the 1894 Barber dime. Only 10 of the 24 pieces struck at the San Francisco Mint are accounted for.
The Very Rare 1894 Barber Dime
With only 24 pieces created, the 1894 Barber Dime produced at the San Francisco Mint is one of the highly prized US coins for collectors. It’s not known why only 24 pieces were struck, with one theory saying it was supposed to be a gift to important bankers.
One of the best stories about the coins involves Mint Superintendent J. Daggett. He gave three coins to his daughter and told her to keep them as they would be of great value in the future. She spent one of the coins on ice cream on her way home from the mint; the other two she sold in the 1950s.