The Roosevelt Dime series has been in production since 1946, and while it’s a long-running coin with hundreds of distinct issues the run has spawned very few dates that could be classified as truly scarce – let alone rare. However, that all changed in 1996 with the limited release of the 1996-W Roosevelt Dime, struck to recognize the 50th anniversary of the Roosevelt Dime series. Released a free bonus coin sold only with 1996 United States Mint Uncirculated Sets, the 1996-W Roosevelt Dime became the lowest-mintage business-strike coin in the series. The coin boasts a mintage of just 1,457,000 pieces, making it scarcer than any of the regular-issue business strikes that came before or after.
West Point Story
In a numismatic world where the “W” mintmark of the West Point Mint has become rather commonplace on coinage – even some circulating coins – it’s sometimes easy to forget there was a time not too many years ago when the sight of the W mintmark was a novel occurrence. In fact, the 1996-W Roosevelt Dime marked the first time a regular-issue (non-commemorative) coin type received the “W” scantly seen mintmark.
There is one major caveat here – The Roosevelt Dime was not the first circulating coin to be struck at the West Point Mint. The “W” mint had been complementing the production of regular-circulation coinage since the 1970s; from 1974 through 1986, the West Point Mint struck Lincoln Cents sans mintmark that are indistinguishable from Philadelphia strikes. The West Point Mint also produced Washington Quarters from 1977 through 1979, again without any mintmark or other distinguishing features that point to their West Point origin.
The “W” mintmark first appeared on United States coinage in 1983 with the production of commemorative 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games $10 gold coins. Interestingly, the West Point Mint wasn’t technically a mint at that time – it was still merely a bullion depository for silver, as had been the case since the “Fort Knox of Silver” was built in 1937. The West Point facility officially became a United States Mint branch facility on March 31, 1988.
A Modern Rarity
Granted, the 1996-W Roosevelt Dime was produced only for numismatic purposes and isn’t as rare as many other proofs that came later in the series, including the 90% Silver 2015-W Roosevelt Proof Dime – a coin with a mintage of just 74,430. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that this 1996-W Roosevelt Dime has a mintage of less than 1.5 million and is scarcer, in the absolute sense, than any other business strikes issued in the series.
But why was this special 1996 Roosevelt Dime minted at the West Point Mint anyway? In addition to the exclusive nature of producing a coin at the West Point Mint, there’s an important connection between the coin’s obverse subject of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the “W” mint’s location in New York. After all, it was the Empire State where Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born in 1882. He hailed from the Upstate New York town of Hyde Park, fewer than 40 miles north of West Point, and went on to serve as the state’s governor before becoming the nation’s first and only four-term president. He died in office in 1945 at the age of 63 after a long battle with polio – a disease for which he formed the March of Dimes charitable organization in 1938 to raise funds for a cure.
It was therefore quite fitting that the special 50th anniversary Roosevelt Dime was struck at the West Point Mint. And with its low mintage, the 1996-W Roosevelt Dime was guaranteed to be a hit with collectors. It remains so today, serving as one of the most coveted and important of all the copper-nickel Roosevelt Dimes produced.
Collecting the 1996-W Roosevelt Dime
While the 1996-W Roosevelt Dime was issued only in 1996 Uncirculated Sets packaged at the United States Mint, collectors should keep an eye out for this coin in circulation anyway. As has been seen with many other numismatic-only coins – including proofs – some examples of this coin have surely escaped into circulation for one reason or another. Worn specimens are rare only due to the fact the vast majority of these coins exist in uncirculated condition, with most examples safely housed in coin collections or coin dealer inventories.
PCGS has graded several thousand examples over the years, and they mostly tend to grade in the MS66 to MS67 range. Grading patterns suggest Full Bands specimens are less common, though populations of PCGS-graded 1996-W Roosevelt Dimes with the Full Bands designation also number well into the thousands. Only seven specimens are graded PCGS MS69, with MS68FB representing the best of the Full Bands specimens graded by PCGS. The typical 1996-W Roosevelt Dime can be obtained for well less than $50, though PCGS Set Registry members may be willing to pay triple, quadruple, or even more than that to acquire a top-flight example for their Roosevelt Dime Registry Sets.