Dimes of 1809 – A Key in the Capped Bust Dime Series
Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #230
A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds….
The Capped Bust Dime series was minted from 1809 to 1837. The 1822 is the only date that is rarer than the 1809, though a famous variety of an 1829, with a ‘Curl Bottom 2,’ is even rarer than the 1822. The exceptional Eugene (Gene) Gardner 1809 is currently ‘in the news,’ as it was auctioned on June 23rd. It is covered at the end of this discussion. Herein, a number of 1809 dimes are mentioned, including relatively inexpensive 1809 dimes.
People who collect Capped Bust Dimes usually are content with just one 1829 dime, and ignore the extremely rare ‘Curl Bottom 2’ variety. It is not difficult to find an 1829 dime in general.
The 1822 and the 1809 are the key dates. ‘Dimes of 1822’ were covered in 2012. Beginners may wish to read an earlier article on Collecting Dimes.
I. Rarity of 1809 Dimes
I have revised my estimate of the rarity of the 1822. My additional research suggests that the true number is between 215 and 240; the 1822 is thus very rare. The 1809 is almost as rare, 275 to 315 survive. For both keys, there are a substantial number of non-gradable pieces. I am referring to coins that have failed to receive numerical grades, graded coins that should have failed to receive numerical grades, and non-certified 1809 dimes that should fail to be graded if submitted to the PCGS or the NGC.
Coins that have serious problems are non-gradable. In some cases, a non-gradable coin may become legitimately gradable if foreign matter on the surfaces is removed.
Why do there exist dozens of non-gradable representatives of key dates? Although the amount of ten cents was greater, in terms of purchasing power, in the middle of the 19th century than now, a dime was never a large sum of money. Further, there have been periods of deflation in addition to periods of inflation over the past two hundred years. So, in the middle of the 19th century, collecting circulated dimes ‘by date’ was a costless hobby.
In the middle of the 19th century, the total cost of a set of dimes, acquired at face value, was not large. Dimes could always be spent. Casual collectors, people who are unknown now and were probably unknown to many other coin enthusiasts while they were alive, pulled key date dimes from change or received them from bank tellers during the middle of the 19th century.
Indeed, casual or low-budget collectors pulled a variety of rare or very scarce coins from change. Many of those coins found in change decades after having been minted were bent, severely scratched or corroded. Moreover, men in the 19th century were far more likely to have sharp objects in their pockets than they are now, and women probably had some sharp objects in handbags. Indeed, many metal objects have since been replaced by plastic objects, including combs. Besides, people in the 19th century often carried knives for a variety of purposes. Also, before electric dryers became viable, clothes were more likely to have been damp, especially in humid climates. Therefore, it is not surprising that plenty of 1809 dimes are non-gradable.
Heavily scratched or corroded 1820 dimes, in contrast, were likely to have been melted at some point as gradable 1820 dimes are not rare. Interested collectors in the 19th century could then easily have found 1820 dimes that did not have serious problems; there was then not much of a reason to save bent or corroded 1820 dimes. A non-gradable rare coin was more likely to have been saved than a non-gradable, relatively common coin. Therefore, in most cases, the non-gradable percentage of survivors of a key date is likely to be much higher than the non-gradable percentage of survivors of the least scarce date of the same design type.
The collector RKP is one of many collectors who is aware of more than a few non-gradable 1809 dimes. RKP has “been collecting bust dimes for about six years.” He “purchased” a second 1809 dime “about a year ago, raw [non-certified coin] for $200 and subsequently submitted it to PCGS where it came back AG-03,” RKP reveals. His first 1809 is “a very original looking PCGS VF-25,” which he “bought for $1,400 about four years ago,” a price that RKP regards as “a relative bargain.” An “older collector took a liking to me at a coin show and sold his 1809 to me,” RKP is happy to report. “Collectors should be patient and look for 1809 dimes like these, which are out there, but may take time to find as collectors weed through the plethora of ungradable, genuine coins around.”
At coin shows, there are are dealers who sell non-certified, well circulated 19th century coins and there are many collectors of these who like to hold the actual coins (hopefully just by the edges) rather than collect them in sealed PCGS or NGC holders. Even so, I recommend that, when collectors acquire coins valued at over $500 each, they consider only coins in PCGS or NGC holders.
Indeed, unless a collector is a very sharp grader, he or she should not even think about buying, expensive U.S. coins that are not PCGS or NGC certified. I am not suggesting that all grades assigned by PCGS and NGC grades are accurate or even sensible. There are numerous cases of the same service assigning different grades to the same coin at different times, and expert graders have been deceived by coin doctors. It is indisputable, however, that buying PCGS or NGC certified coins, on average, involves much less risk than buying non-certified coins or coins certified by services that are outside the mainstream of the coin business.
II. What are Capped Bust Dimes?
Capped Bust Half Dimes (1829-37), Capped Bust Dimes (1809-37), Capped Bust Quarters (1815-38) and Capped Bust Half Dollars (1807-36) are all similar. There are significant artistic differences, though, in the designs of the various series of Capped Bust U.S. coins.
While Capped Bust Dimes came into existence in 1809, a second subtype of Capped Bust Dimes was introduced in 1828. These are often referred to as ‘Small Size’ Capped Bust Dimes, yet this name is not really accurate as these are only slighter smaller, on average. Those dimes of the later subtype have different border devices and are characterized by a few very subtle differences in the design. Also, in terms of mechanics and the imparting of design detail, 1828 to 1837 Capped Bust Dimes were struck in a more consistent and refined manner, generally, than those produced from 1809 to 1828. Dimes of 1809 tend to have been very unevenly struck.
Capped Bust Dimes are not the first U.S. dimes. Draped Bust dimes with a so called ‘Small Eagle’ reverse (back) design are dated 1796 and 1797. From 1798 to 1807, Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle dimes were struck. Liberty Seated Dimes followed Capped Bust Dimes, and date from 1837 to 1891. Barber Dimes were produced from 1892 to 1916. Mercury Dimes followed, 1916 to 1945. Roosevelt Dimes have been minted from 1945 to the present.
Roosevelt Dimes dated before 1965 are 90% silver and some Proof Roosevelt Dimes minted since 1992 are 90% silver as well. Roosevelt Dimes found in change are of a copper-nickel ‘clad’ composition. In contrast, 1809 dimes were specified to be about 89.24% silver.
III. Circulated 1809 dimes
Generally, 1809 dimes are considerably costlier than other Capped Bust Dimes. Only 1822 dimes and those of the already mentioned 1829 ‘Curl Base 2’ variety are more expensive, among issues that are typically listed in standard references.
Of the first subtype, an 1820 or an 1821, in Good-04 grade, could be found for less than $45. Of the second subtype of Capped Bust Dimes, a few dates in the 1830s could each be obtained, in Good-04 grade, for around $30 each, at retail.
In Nov. 2012, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned a PCGS graded ‘Good-06’ 1809 for $528.75. Curiously, in Sept. 2013, this same firm auctioned a different 1809 with the same PCGS assigned Good-06 grade for $998.75. Less than a month ago, Heritage auctioned a PCGS graded ‘VG-10’ coin for that same price, $998.75! (Please read an article on What Are Auction Prices?)
For those who cannot afford to pay more than $500, an 1809 dime that grades less than Good-04 is an option. Heritage sold an NGC graded Fair-02 1809 in Dec. 2012. for $305.50. Additionally, Heritage sold a PCGS graded Fair-02 1809 in July 2011 for $417.45, which was a very strong price. A Fair-02 grade 1809 could very well sell ‘over the counter’ for less than $300 at a medium size coin show, though it is best to avoid those that are not certified.
Also in July 2011, an NGC graded VG-10 1809 realized $1725. A PCGS graded VG-08 coin brought $1410 in Sept. 2012.
These are more difficult to find in the Fine-12 to EF-40 grade range. In May 2010, Heritage auctioned an NGC graded Fine-12 1809 for $1265. In Feb. 2012, the Goldbergs auctioned a PCGS graded and CAC approved Fine-15 1809 for $1150.
Leading price guides are wrong about the values for 1809 dimes. In Jan. 2010, Heritage auctioned a PCGS graded VF-25 coin for $2530. For a “VF-25” 1809, the numismedia.com retail price, in June 2014, was $989 and the PCGS price guide value is (or was) $1750.
About a month ago, at a Long Beach Expo, Heritage sold an NGC graded VF-30 1809 for $2467.50. The June 2014 numismedia.com retail level for a VF-30 1809 was under $1100 and the PCGS retail guide value is (or was) less than $2000! It is a good idea to consult an expert before acquiring an 1809 dime that grades above VF-20.
IV. Uncirculated 1809 Dimes
There are many more uncirculated (‘mint state’) 1809 dimes than uncirculated 1822 dimes. There are probably fewer than ten business strike 1822 dimes that deserve numerical grades above MS-60. There are at least twice as many 1809 dimes that merit numerical grades above 60. Although there are probably two Proof 1822 dimes, one of which just sold as part of the first sale of the Eugene H. Gardner Collection, all 1809 dimes are business strikes.
In Aug. 2012, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned a PCGS graded AU-58 1809 for $4776.38. In June 2011, Heritage sold an NGC graded MS-62 1809 for $5462.50.
Before June 23, 2014, the PCGS CoinFacts site gave the impression that an 1809 that is PCGS graded above MS-60 had not been auctioned in six years. In June 2008, Heritage auctioned a PCGS graded MS-64 1809 for $11,500. That coin was earlier in the Troy Wiseman collection and it realized the exact same price, $11,500, when Heritage sold in Sept. 2006. A veteran collector informs that this Wiseman coin is the Norweb 1809 that Bowers & Merena auctioned in 1987. I have not yet had a chance to compare catalogue pictures.
In Jan. 2013, an NGC graded MS-64+ 1809 sold for $10,575. Less than fourteen months later, an NGC graded MS-64, without a plus indication, brought $11,750.
A non-certified, uncirculated 1809 was auctioned by Stack’s in March 2006. It was probably part of the “Northern Bay Collection,” which is known to have included some early dimes that are high in the condition rankings for their respective dates. Although I did not attend this sale, the price realized of $10,925 suggests the possibility that a few serious bidders graded it as MS-64 at most. If leading wholesalers of rare coins had graded it as MS-65, then it would probably would have sold for much more. An NGC graded MS-65 1809 was auctioned by Heritage in Feb. 2012 for $23,000.
“I passed up the Norweb 1809 in 64 and others that graded anywhere from 62 to 65,” declares the collector known as Easton. “I did see 1809 dimes that PCGS graded 65 but overall I didn’t [want] them. One was dipped several years ago, and even though it’s a nicely struck coin, it didn’t fit into my set. Another one [that] was graded 65 lacked any eye appeal, which is very important to me,” Easton relates.
An anonymous collector, who has been tracking bust dimes for decades, remarks, “I have never seen an 1809 dime in a PCGS 65 or 66 holder. They haven’t shown up in any major auctions for the past twenty years or so.” This anonymous collector wonders about an individual, non-certified “Gem BU” 1809 dime that he says appeared in three Stack’s auctions spanning a period from the 1960s to the 1980s.
A possibility that comes to my mind is that the Lovejoy 1809 dime, which Stack’s auctioned in 1990, may have later been PCGS graded MS-65. It was NGC certified in 1990. The Pittman-Gardner 1809, though, may be equal or superior to the Lovejoy 1809, which was the best 1809 dime I had ever seen before I attended the Pittman I sale in Oct. 1997. Unfortunately, I do not have a clear vision of the Lovejoy 1809 in my mind now.
V. Gene Gardner 1809
The Pittman-Gardner piece is most exciting 1809 dime to publicly appear in a long time. It was auctioned on June 23. Evidently, Gene Gardner purchased this coin when he personally attended the Pittman I sale in Oct. 1997, an auction by the firm of David Akers.
It was later PCGS graded MS-64 and it was CAC approved in 2014. The Pittman-Gardner 1809 has nice blue toning, with much russet. There are neat touches of green, too. It is certainly an attractive coin. It probably merits a 65 grade, though I would have to examine it again to put forth a firm opinion.
The price realized of $31,725 is noteworthy. While it is the best 1809 dime to become publicly available in a long time, the PCGS price guide value for a MS-64 1809 is (or was) $12,000 and the value for a MS-65+ 1809 is (or was) $27,500. Although this coin is a candidate for an upgrade, it does not merit a 66 grade. It is probably true that leading price guides understate or did understate market values for MS-64 and higher grade 1809 dimes. After all, this same Pittman 1809 sold for $22,000 in 1997.
On June 23, 2014, the collector who refers to himself as Easton was the successful bidder. “I got this and I really wanted it for my set,” Easton says. “I wasn’t going to give it up.”
In the PCGS registry category of “Capped Bust Dimes Classic Set,” the “Easton Collection” is not just the “Current Finest,” it is the “All-Time Finest” as well, ahead of the Norweb Family and Pittman Collections, which are conceptually registered by PCGS associates. All the Norweb and Pittman coins were not certified when they were auctioned.
“I have been collecting Capped Bust Dimes for over twenty years, but more seriously for the last twelve years,” Easton states. His PCGS graded AU-58 1820- Large ‘0’ was also earlier in the John Pittman Collection. Three of his dimes in this registry set were earlier in the Eliasberg Collection, the all-time greatest collection of U.S. coins. There was a fourth Eliasberg dime in this registry set.
Easton reports that he owns the Eliasberg 1809 dime, which Easton says is PCGS graded AU-58 and has a sticker of approval from the CAC. “It is really a great looking coin and I am somewhat disappointed about removing it from my registry set, but this new [Pittman-Gardner 1809] is really fabulous! At this point, I have no intentions of selling the Eliasberg 1809 dime!”
So, Easton is keeping both the Pittman-Gardner and Eliasberg 1809 dimes. There may be a better 1809 dime in the Pogue Family Collection, which will be auctioned by Stack’s-Bowers in the near future. After all, it is believed by relevant experts that the Pogue Collection has the finest known 1822 dime. I look forward to seeing it.
©2014 Greg Reynolds
Appendix: Response To Teichman
Saul Teichman comments, “With regard to great dimes collections, you may want to check the Bareford, James a. Stack, Lovejoy and Bolen sales to see if any of them had a high grade 1809 or any other date for that matter.”
I am more than willing to consider criticism and suggestions. It would be a good idea, though, for the critic to first read the article in question before suggesting content. I explicitly mention the Lovejoy 1809 above, in the original article.
As for the Bolen 1809, it was auctioned as part of Bolen’s set of dimes at the Numisma ’95 event in New York. There were just so many great coins in that sale. I probably did not then have time to analyze that 1809, which at a glance, graded MS-63 or MS-64 with consideration of grading standards that were in effect in the mid 1990s.
It seems that the Bolen 1809 re-appeared in the Stack’s sale of the Lemus-Queller set of dimes in 2005. The price realized suggests that at least two bidders may have graded it as “MS-65” or figured that it was as desirable as an 1809 that is certified as grading “MS-65.” I am not now aware of any evidence that the Queller 1809, which is probably the Bolen 1809, ever was certified as grading “MS-65.” As my research regarding the Bolen dime is incomplete, I felt it best not to mention it in the above article. It is neither fair nor accurate for Teichman to assume that I was neglecting it. At this point, I have no reason to believe that the Bolen-Queller 1809 is of higher quality than the Pittman-Gardner 1809, nor do I have reason to believe that it could possibly have been graded as MS-66.
No one has written even half as much, as I have, about the dimes that were in the James A. Stack, Sr. collection. I just have not had time to unearth information about the James A. Stack 1809, which experts do not seem to clearly remember in the present. Readers are welcome to provide information about it.
As for the 1981 Bareford sale, catalogue descriptions of coins auctioned during that era are rarely useful. As I do not now have pictures of 1809 dimes that I know PCGS has graded MS-65 or MS-66, how helpful would a picture of an 1809 dime from 1981 really be at this time? Besides, coin auction catalogues published from the 1930s to the 1980s do not typically have quality pictures, except sometimes for a few exceptionally valuable coins.
July 6, 2014