While nickels, quarters, pennies, and dollars from 1902 had a lot of staying power, you won’t find many dimes around. Nobody was really interested in studying or collecting them at the time, so they’re not listed in Cherry Picker Error Guides. Let’s dig into the 1902 Dime Value.
1902 Dime Value Chart
|1902 (P) No Mint Mark Dime Value
|1902-S Dime Value
|1902-O Dime Value
1902 Dime Value Guide
With many coins, the mint mark directly influences the resale price. And you can sometimes spot subtle differences between the coins because they didn’t just slap any mint mark on any coin. Instead, each mint had designated dies, and numismatists (coin experts) can often tell just by checking the die markers. So let’s take a closer look at the individual US mint branches.
1902 (P) No Mint Mark Dime Value
In 1902, the Philadelphia Mint made 21,380,777, Dimes, including almost 800 proofs. They had no mint marks. The auction record for an MS 67 was $5,875, set way back in December 2014. PCGS has graded 4 coins at MS 67, and it estimates their current value as $4,750.
1902-S Dime Value
The San Francisco Mint pressed 2,070,000 Dimes with the S Mint Mark. In December 2014, a 1902-S graded MS 67+ was auctioned for $21,150. Since then, PCGS hasn’t received any other coins in this grade, so the PCGS Price Guide estimates its current value as $25,000.
1902-O Dime Value
In 1902, the New Orleans Mint coined 4,500,000 Dimes with the O Mint Mark. The auction record for a 1902-O Dime graded MS 67 was set nearly 15 years ago in August 2007. The coin auctioned for $12,650. Today, PCGS estimates the value of an MS 67 even higher at $17,500.
1902 (P) Proof Dime Value
These days, we see proof coins mainly as investments and/or collectibles, but they serve a practical purpose too. Their job was to ensure the dies were accurately struck, so they have sharp details and a copy stays in the archives. Museums will sometimes get a copy as well. And they come in three styles – matte proofs, mirror-like proofs, and reverse proof coins.
Matte proofs are sandblasted to give them a grainy texture and are stored in sulfur-infused tissue paper to prevent tarnish. Mirror-like proofs have a highly reflective field and a frosted device. Reverse proofs get their name because they reverse this formulation, with a mirrored device and a frosted field. The shiny section is created by burnishing or polishing planchets.
These planchets get tumbled in vats full of stainless steel balls before they’re struck – that’s how they get so shiny. The dies are also scrubbed with horsehair brushes to achieve that mirror-like shine. Meanwhile, the frosted bits can be formed in two ways. Until 1970, the dies were dipped in acid to frost them. After 1971, the mint used computerized lasers instead.
For acid-pickled coins, the frosted effect would fade each time the die struck, so after 50 to 100 coins, the contrast between the device and the field was visibly weaker. These early coins were graded as Deep Cameo by PCGS or Ultra Cameo by NGC. The next grade was Cameo, and below that were regular proofs. But the contrast on laser-frosted coins lasts much longer.
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PL, DPL, SMS, and Uncirculated Coins
In years when the mint didn’t make proof coins, they made Special Mint Sets or SMS coins. They used polished dies, but the planchets weren’t burnished. Also, unlike proofs, SMS coins are only struck once, but the coin press hits harder and applies extra pressure to ensure clear details. Proofs are graded as PF by NGC or PR by PCGS, not to be confused with PL or DPL.
PL means Proof-Like while DPL means Deep-Proof-Like. These are mostly Uncirculated Sets that are extra shiny but were not struck with burnished planchets or dies. Mint staff select them by searching through batches of business strike coins and picking out the best ones with a satin finish. They’re sold straight to collectors before they get damaged in circulation.
In 1902, Proof Dimes were only coined at the Philadelphia Mint. 777 were made, and they had no mint marks. In April 2008, the auction record for a 1902 Proof Dime graded PR 61 was $17,258. But in August 2018, a PR 65 Cameo was auctioned for only $4,500 on eBay. PCGS currently has only one coin in this grade, and they estimate its 2023 value as $7,250.
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1902 Dime Errors
Charles Barber came from a lineage of engravers, medal makers, and coin experts. Both his dad and granddad were in the business, and his father, William Barber, was his predecessor as the Chief Mint Engraver. This means his emphasis on the Barber Coinage was to keep costs low and produce hardy coins for circulation. He prioritized functionality over beauty.
As a result, his coins weren’t popular with the public and not many people collected them. These days, there’s renewed interest, but at the time, no one was speculating on these coins and the numismatists didn’t pay much attention when they were released. This could be why no known errors are listed in the books – nobody was looking! So let’s discuss general errors.
When a coin is made, the artist crafts an 8″ model using rubber, plaster, and epoxy. S/he takes it to the mint where it gets reduced over several days in a reducing machine. The mini model then makes the steel master hub, which makes master dies. These dies are used to make working hubs and later working dies. The working dies strike planchets to make coins.
Each of these stages involves multiple strikes, and if the target shifts in mid-strike, you can get doubling, tripling, quadrupling, and misalignment errors that can raise the value of the coin. You might also find a coin struck on the wrong denomination, or double-struck on a coin that already has designs on it. Other error examples include broadstrikes and RPMs.
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History of the 1902 Dime
The 1902 Dime was part of the Barber Coinage, which comprised silver dimes, quarters, and half dollars. At the time, denominations above a dollar were largely gold while those valued at less than a dime were base metal coins. All Barber Coinage had matching concepts with a few differences e.g. size, stars, mint marks, etc. They were designed by Charles E. Barber.
He was the Chief Mint Engraver from 1879 to 1917 and was 52 when he designed the Barber Coinage in 1892. He had worked at the mint since 1869, and he also designed 30 medals and collaborated on coins for Cuba, Hawaii, Columbia, and others. He made pattern coins for 1c, 3c, and 5c pieces to give them a matching design as well, but only his V-Nickel was used.
Barber Coinage is sometimes called Liberty Head Coinage. And Barber is frequently attacked for leaving out the denomination on his Liberty Head V-Nickel, enabling counterfeiters to tweak the coin and pass it off as $5. But the law only required them for larger units, not on 1c, 2c, 3c, or 5c, so it was a rational omission. Denominations were later included by default.
The Coin Contest of 1891
The trouble began when the mint decided to redesign the nation’s silver coinage. They wanted a fresh take, so instead of using in-house mint engraves like they had always done, they called for a public contest. But they only had a $500 budget so they would only award the winner rather than paying for all entries. And Barber made things harder with caveats.
Instead of asking for sketches, he wanted full models with denominations and wording. He said it was to ensure realistic rendering, but lots of people think he was placing barriers so he could design the coins himself. And when the 10 invited artists declined, just as Barber had warned they would, he asked some of them to judge submissions from the general public.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens was one of these judges, and from Day One, he and Barber couldn’t see eye to eye. Much of the disagreement came from their backgrounds. Barber was used to working on flat media that was 1” or smaller, with low relief for easier stacking. He grew up engraving coins and medals for the family business. But Saint-Gaudens worked in larger 3D.
In the end, they only liked 2 out of 300 entries, so Barber got the brief. While Barber Coinage is largely maligned, it wasn’t necessarily his fault. The criticism was built around the contest itself – announced way back in 1877 – and how badly it failed. Mint Director Edward Leech swore he’d never run another public contest, but the mint ran several more and still does.
The End of Barber Coinage
These complaints against Barber Coinage were largely driven by the wasted time and effort. People were pissed that after all this drama, the coins still ended up being designed by in-house mint engravers. Other grievances included the conservative and unimaginative design. But his first attempt was far more artistic, with an eagle and sunlight behind Lady Liberty.
But eagles could only be legally used on quarters, half dollars, and dollars, so he was asked to revise it severally and made multiple pattern coins. Leech then picked a much simpler option resembling the circulating Morgan Dollar. Barber is also criticized for not changing the back, but those were his instructions from above – Leech only asked him to redesign the front.
Barber is often described as uncooperative when he was asked to work with external artists, especially Augustus Saint-Gaudens. This wasn’t an unreasonable reaction since by his death in 1917, he had ‘systematically undone his life’s work’ by reluctantly replacing all his coinage under the currency beautification project initiated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1904.
When Barber died, he had watched (and supervised) as his coinage was replaced by his 1891 rival’s legacy – Augustus Saint-Gaudens himself ($20 Double Eagle); assistants James Earle Fraser (5c Buffalo Nickel) and Victor David Brenner (1c Lincoln Penny); and his student Adolph Alexander Weinman (10c Mercury Dime and 50c Walking Liberty Half Dollar).
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How to Identify the 1902 Dime?
To describe a coin correctly, it’s smart to use the right terms, so let’s review a few. Coins are made by striking them in a coin press, a process that takes various phases – namely the hub, die, and planchet. The planchet is the blank disc that gets struck to make coins. The front or heads side of a coin is called its obverse while the back or tails side is called its reverse.
The thinnest sides are edges, and starting in the 1760s, the edges had raised borders called rims or collars. These enabled coins to be minted in standard sizes, diameters, and melt values. The words on a coin are called legends or mottos while the images are called devices. The background of a coin is its field. Now let’s look at the physical features of the 1902 Dime.
The Obverse of the 1902 Dime
The obverse (heads side) of the 1902 Dime features Lady Liberty wearing a Phrygian Cap aka Liberty Cap and a pileus, which is a crown of olive branches. The front of the pileus has the legend Liberty inscribed on the ribbon. The ribbon is tied in a knot at the back of her head.
Lady Liberty faces right in the portrait, with United States on the left, behind her head, and Of America on the right, in front of her face. The coin has denticles all along the rim, and the mint date runs along the lower collar. B for Barber is on the lower left of the neckline cut-off.
The Reverse of the 1902 Dime
The reverse (tails side) of the 1902 Dime has its denomination, One Dime, encircled in a wreath of mixed sprigs. The wreath contains corn, oak, wheat, and maple branches that interlink at the top with a bow at the bottom. The coin also has denticles all around the rim.
The right side of the wreath has two cobs of corn with their husks peeking out. The upper left has sheaves of wheat. The lower left features maple leaves and the lower right has oak leaves and an acorn. The mint mark is at the bottom of the coin, directly below the knotted bow.
Other Features of the 1902 Dime
The 1902 Dime was 90% silver and 10% copper. It measured 17.91mm in diameter. And yes, it had to be that small. Otherwise, its silver melt value would exceed its value! The coin had reeded edges and weighed 2.5g. The dime was part of the Barber Coinage, so it had similar designs to the quarter and half dollar, but without the eagle on the back for legal reasons.