This narrative comes courtesy of the Heritage auction catalog of January 2005, Lot 30164:
1894-S 10C PR65 PCGS. As one of the "Big Three" of American numismatics, along with the 1913 Liberty nickel and the 1804 silver dollar, acquisition of this rarity has long been regarded as a pinnacle of collecting. Of these three rarities, only the 1894-S dime was officially listed in Mint Reports at the time of issue.
This is one of the finest known 1894-S Barber dimes, and is the single most important example from a historical perspective. Only three of the nine currently known examples have been described as Gem quality. The Eliasberg Collection coin was described in the May 1996 sale as Proof 65; however, that coin has reportedly been dipped at least twice since the sale. The Eliasberg duplicate, sold by Stack's in 1947, is graded PR66 by NGC, but despite the grade, it is the coin that Eliasberg considered his duplicate, thus is probably no finer than the coin he kept.
In our opinion, this coin is equal to the primary Eliasberg coin retained for his collection, and these two are the two finest examples. Both of these coins are superior to the Eliasberg duplicate that was sold by Stack's in 1947, despite its higher certified grade.
Why were there only 24 dimes struck at the San Francisco Mint in 1894? This question has been asked by numismatists for many years. And why were they all struck as Proofs? Several theories over the years have tried to explain the mintage of these coins.
One of the early theories suggested that these 24 coins were simply struck to balance the books in 1894, as reported in the April 1928 issue of The Numismatist. This theory was related by Farran Zerbe who claims that the information was given to him at the San Francisco Mint in 1905:
"To close a bullion account at the San Francisco Mint at the end of the fiscal year, June 30th, 1894, it was found necessary to show 40 cents, odd, in the year's coinage. The mint not having coined any dimes during the year, the dime dies were put to work, and to produce the needed 40 cents, 24 pieces were struck, any reasonable amount of even dollars over the 40 cents being readily absorbed in the account. It has been stated that at the time no thought was given by the mint people that a rarity had been produced, it being supposed they would, as always in the past, be ordered to coin dimes before the close of the year. It so happened that no dime coinage was ordered and the unintentional error was not realized until the year's coinage record was closed."
Two parts of this theory do not seem to make sense today. If the coinage was indeed produced to close a bullion account that was off by 40 cents, why did it not matter how many even dollars over this amount were produced? Doesn't it make sense that the bullion account was then out of balance by two dollars? The second question surrounding the Zerbe report concerns the condition of these coins. With the exception of two heavily circulated examples, every known 1894-S dime is a Proof. If Mint personnel were simply balancing the account, why did they take the time to create these coins as Proofs, especially if "no thought was given by the mint people that a rarity had been produced." Today, the Zerbe account is considered to be illogical and inaccurate.
James Johnson presented the Presentation Specimen theory in his Coin World article of September 13, 1972. He reported that his information came from Earl Parker who purchased two examples from Hallie Daggett in 1950. Hallie was the daughter of John Daggett, the superintendent of the San Francisco Mint in 1894. These details reportedly came directly from Hallie Daggett via Parker. It seems that seven banker friends of John Daggett were visiting the San Francisco Mint in 1894, and desirous of a souvenir, each received three freshly minted Proof dimes. The remaining three went to Daggett, who gave all three to his daughter. Why were dimes the coins of choice for this presentation? Why not special presentation gold coins or silver dollars? Also, why did Daggett give all three dimes to his middle child and not one to each of his three children? Perhaps he distributed them among all three and Hallie eventually received the others from her siblings. If she did spend one on ice cream, as the story is told, perhaps that was her only example, leaving just two coins in the family. The Johnson report provides the most credible theory about these coins, although even this is based on the memory of Earl Parker, two decades after the fact, with Parker relying on the recollection of Ms. Daggett, who was 72 years old when she met with Parker. Today, this is the production theory that is taken as fact, and is the theory that Walter Breen published in his various encyclopedic works.
William Burd has discounted the Johnson theory as part fact and part fiction, stating that the part about various bankers each receiving three pieces is fictional. His research was published in "The Inscrutable 1894-S Dime" appearing in The Numismatist, February 1994. Burd suggested the possibility that "Daggett simply held a reception or party and produced the dimes as demonstration pieces or souvenirs. He may have had dignitaries in from Washington, local supporters, or relatives visiting from the East. Perhaps he held a gathering commemorating his nomination to the office a year earlier. At the time, he most likely believed a regular production of dimes would be run in the second half of the year." Today, this commentary provides even more speculation without any hard evidence. Burd continued: "Until someone can produce Mint records that detail day-to-day operations at San Francisco, we can only surmise what took place."
Until such evidence is located, we will not know the true story behind these coins. Only a few facts are known, everything else is speculation:
1. Only 24 examples were struck and they were struck during the first half of the year, according to official mint records.
2. One or more examples were reserved for the Assay Commission that met on February 13, 1895. Were these included in the 24 coins minted, or were the Assay coins in addition to the 24 examples?
3. All were struck as Proofs, and all but two retain some or full mirrored proof finish today. They were struck from a single pair of dies, indicating all were struck at approximately the same time.
4. Aside from the record in contemporary mint reports, the first public notice that these coins existed was not until the March 1900 issue of The Numismatist.
These four points are the only facts of the 1894-S dime case.
The Confusing Pedigree of 1894-S Dimes
Several different authors and sources have provided pedigree listings of the 1894-S dimes. To this day, however, none have provided a complete and accurate pedigree listing of the nine known specimens. James Johnson published a listing in Coin World in the September 13, 1972 issue. Johnson wrote a follow-up article many years later, published by Bowers and Merena in Rare Coin Review No. 64, Spring 1987. Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Proof Coins, published in 1977, used much of Johnson's 1972 research to provide a revised listing. Several years later, his Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins gave a revised pedigree listing. Finally, in 1991, David Lawrence (Feigenbaum) revised the pedigree listing in The Complete Guide to Barber Dimes. The David Lawrence pedigree listing currently appears on the website www.coinfacts.com.
In various catalogs, Stack's has kept track of pedigrees that have been published each time they offered one of these specimens. Each of the Breen references gave a pedigree listing of 12 different coins. David Lawrence listed 10 examples, and now it is believed that just nine of these coins actually exist, and even one or two of those is suspect. More recently, William A. Burd summarized nine different examples and cross-referenced earlier pedigree listings. Using the numbering system set forth by Burd, we present the following roster, cross-referenced to names of each specimen by David Lawrence, and to roster numbers presented by earlier researchers. We believe this list is as extensive and complete as possible, including all auction citations with prices realized.
Burd-1. Newcomer Specimen. Proof 60. Waldo C. Newcomer; F.C.C. Boyd ("World's Greatest Collection," Numismatic Gallery, 1945), lot 756, $2,350; Will W. Neil (B. Max Mehl, 6/1947), lot 1433, $2,325; B. Max Mehl; Edwin Hydeman (Abe Kosoff, 3/1961), lot 387, $13,000; Empire Coin Company; Hazen Hinman ("Century Collection," Paramount, 4/1965), lot 724, $12,250; Leo A. Young; RARCOA (Auction '80), lot 1578, $145,000; Gary L. Young; Ron Gillio; Pacific Coast Auctions (9/1986), lot 110, $91,300; anonymous collector. Johnson-2; Breen-1; Encyclopedia-1; Lawrence-1; Stack's-1. This may be the A.G. Heaton-H.O. Granberg example discussed by Elmer Sears in the April 1928 article in The Numismatist.
Burd-2. Eliasberg Specimen. Proof 65. J.M. Clapp; John H. Clapp; Clapp Estate; Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; Eliasberg Estate (Bowers and Merena, 5/1996), lot 1250 $451,000; Harvey Stack. Johnson-3; Breen-2; Encyclopedia-2; Lawrence-2; Stack's-2.
Burd-3. James Stack Specimen. Proof 66 NGC. J.M. Clapp; John H. Clapp; Clapp Estate; Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. (Stack's, 10/1947), lot 348 $2,150; James A. Stack (Stack's, 1/1990), lot 206, $275,000; later, private collection via David Lawrence Rare Coins. Johnson-6 and 8; Breen-3 and 4; Encyclopedia-3 and 4; Lawrence-3; Stack's-3. Until the James Stack coin appeared for sale in January 1990, it was believed that the Eliasberg duplicate and the Stack coin were two different examples.
Burd-4. Daggett Specimen. Proof 65 PCGS. John Daggett; Hallie Daggett; Earl Parker; James Johnson; Abner Kreisberg; World-Wide Coin Co.; Bowers and Ruddy Galleries (offered in Rare Coin Review No. 21, September-October 1974), $97,500; mid-western collector; Superior Galleries (8/1992), lot 104, $165,000; Spectrum Numismatics; anonymous collector. Johnson-9; Breen-6; Encyclopedia-6; Lawrence-5; Stack's-5. The coin currently offered.
Burd-5. Buss Specimen. Impaired Proof. John Daggett; Hallie Daggett; Earl Parker; James Kelly; Malcolm Chell-Frost; F.S. Guggenheimer (Stack's, 1/1953), lot 772 $2,100; 1973 MANA Sale (Kagin's, 11/1973), $52,000; Jerry Buss (Superior Galleries, 1/1985), lot 617, $50,600; Michelle Johnson; Superior Galleries (6/1988), lot 4510, $70,400; currently unlocated. Johnson-12, Breen-10, Encyclopedia-7, Lawrence-6, Stack's-6.
Burd-6. Norweb Specimen. Proof 62 NGC. Dr. Charles Cass ("Empire Collection," Stack's, 1957), lot 881, $4,750; James F. Ruddy; Q. David Bowers (1958); Mrs. R. Henry Norweb (Bowers and Merena, 10/1987), lot 584, $77,000; Stack's (55th Anniversary Sale, 1991), lot 504, $93,500; currently unlocated. Johnson-4, Breen-7, Encyclopedia-8, Lawrence-7, Stack's-7.
Burd-7. Rappaport Specimen. Proof. Rappaport; Art Kagin; Reuter; Abner Kreisberg; Bowers and Ruddy (1958 FPL), offered at approximately $6,000; Pennsylvania Estate. This specimen has not been seen since the late 1950s. The names of Rappaport and Reuter came from Walter Breen and are not further identified. Johnson-1, Breen-9, Encyclopedia-10, Lawrence-8, Stack's-9.
Burd-8. Ice Cream Specimen. Good 4. Robert Freidberg (Gimbels Department Store, New York, 1957); Art Kagin; New Netherlands Coin Co. (51st Sale, 6/1958) lot 581, $3,200; Art Kagin; Harmer Rooke (11/1969) $7,400; James G. Johnson; 1980 ANA (Steve Ivy Numismatic Auctions), lot 1804 $31,000; 1981 ANA (Bowers and Ruddy), lot 2921 $25,500; Bowers and Merena (3/1989), lot 191, $33,000; private collector. Johnson-7, Breen-10, Encyclopedia-11, Lawrence-9, Stack's-10.
Burd-9. Romito Specimen. AG 3. Romito (1911); Montesano; Stack's (1942), withdrawn; later John Hipps; Laura Sperber; private collector. The names of Romito and Montesano came from Walter Breen and are not further identified. Johnson-10, Breen-12, Encyclopedia-12, Lawrence-10, Stack's-11.
The following three entries account for the older statements that 12 examples are known. These entries are inaccurate, or they are unverified at this time.
Menjou Specimen. Proof. Adolphe Menjou (Numismatic Gallery, 1950), lot 311. This specimen does not appear in any of the other Census listings, and its place in the roster above is not specifically known. It can only be Burd numbers 1, 6, or 7, or it is a 10th example not recorded above.
Chicago Specimen. John Daggett; Hallie Daggett; Earl Parker; Dan Brown; Chicago private collection. Encyclopedia-5. This specimen has not been seen since the 1950s. Assuming that the story of the Ice Cream Specimen is true, and that Hallie Daggett spent her coin to buy ice cream, all three of the Daggett coins are accounted for above. In that case, this is either Burd-4 or Burd-5 above, or it is a non-genuine example as suggested by Burd.
Mitchelson Specimen. J.C. Mitchelson; Connecticut State Library. Unverified. Encyclopedia-9. In the June 1900 issue of The Numismatist, George Heath reported that J.C. Mitchelson had located an example in circulation at that time. It is likely that Breen picked up on this report and made the assumption that this coin went with the rest of the Mitchelson Collection to the Connecticut State Library. Researcher Phil Carrigan determined that the Connecticut State Library does not have such a coin.
William Burd provided much biographical information about the Daggett family in his February 1994 article. John Daggett served as the Superintendent of the San Francisco Mint from July 31, 1893 until July 31, 1897. Daggett had a long and eventful life. He was born on May 9, 1833 and lived until August 30, 1919, when he died at the age of 86 years. John and his brother, David, headed to California in 1852, although David decided to return home soon after, when he became ill. He died on the voyage home.
John remained in California, and served as the postmaster of the small town of Sawyer's Bar. Soon after, in January 1859 he became involved in politics and attended a state legislature meeting. He spent the Civil War years in Nevada, returning to his northern California home in 1865. For the next seven years, John and his business partners operated a successful mine, selling it in 1872. John bought the mine back in 1895.
He was married to Alice Foree in 1870, and they had three surviving children (three others died in childhood): Ben Foree Daggett, Hallie Morse Daggett, and Leslie Wells Daggett. John Daggett continued in politics and spent 11 sessions in the state legislature before being elected Lieutenant Governor of California, serving this role from 1882 to 1888, a period when he lived in Los Angeles. During this time, he founded the town of Daggett, California, northeast of Los Angeles. Among his other activities, he was chosen as a representative of California to the World's Columbian Exposition.
Certified by PCGS as Proof 65, this lovely dime has exquisite light blue and claret color, accented by light iridescent toning over mirrored fields. A slight depression below the D of UNITED, along with a lint mark between the final S and the O are specific marks that identify this specimen. All design features are sharply defined. We are pleased to present the Gem Daggett specimen, a wonderful 1894-S dime that will be a prized possession of the next owner.