Have you ever wondered what the letters “JS” on the Roosevelt Dime mean? The little “JS” under the base of Roosevelt’s neck on the obverse of the dime has a story to it and was at one time even a point of controversy. Yet its origin is rather ordinary and its meaning not nearly as colorful as many conspiracy theorists once thought it to be. Let’s dive into the meaning and significance of the “JS” on the Roosevelt Dime.
John Sinnock’s Calling Card
The “JS” on the Roosevelt Dime is none other than the initial marking of John Ray Sinnock, the chief engraver of the United States and designer of the coin that replaced the Mercury Dime in 1946. The Roosevelt Dime was created as a tribute to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who passed away while serving his fourth term as United States president at the age of 63 on April 12, 1945. The dime was chosen as the canvas for Roosevelt’s numismatic tribute because he helped organize the March of Dimes in 1938, a charitable he tasked to help stamp out polio – the disease he was diagnosed with in 1921.
After Roosevelt’s passing, the United States Mint began planning the Roosevelt Dime, and Sinnock went to work on drafting sketches and models for the new coin. After design revisions intended to help satisfy the key leadership at the Commission of Fine Arts, the Roosevelt Dime was further perfected in the week leading up to the coin’s release on January 30, 1946 – what would have been Roosevelt’s 64th birthday. Each coin struck since 1946 has carried Sinnock’s initials on the obverse. But not everyone was happy with Sinnock’s initials on the coin.
A Red Scare
“JS” might have been the initials for John Sinnock, but plenty of Americans realized they happened to stand for another individual’s name. That person for whom “JS” could have served as initials was none other than Union of Soviet Socialist Republics dictator Joseph Stalin – the very face of the Communist movement in the post-World War II years and an avowed enemy of the United States. While the initials of John Sinnock were completely harmless, many conspiracy-minded Americans looking for communists under every rock apparently theorized there were a few working behind the scenes on the Roosevelt Dime.
A sizable public relations campaign by the United States Mint intended to inform the public about the meaning of “JS” on the Roosevelt Dime did not go far in convincing Americans otherwise. Urban legends persisted long afterward that “JS” represented Joseph Stalin’s initials. Officials at the United States Mint made an effort to allay these concerns when Sinnock designed the Franklin Half Dollar, which was released in 1948 and carry the initials “JRS” to represent Sinnock’s full name and sever any potential connections to Joseph V. (Vissarionovich) Stalin. Unfortunately, Sinnock passed away in May 1947, months before his Franklin Half Dollar debuted and the controversy surrounding his innocent initials began waning.
- Breen, Walter. Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of US and Colonial Coins. Doubleday, 1988.
- Mikkelson, David. “Josef Stalin on the U.S. Dime.” Snopes. May 16, 2011. Accessed February 9, 2021.
- Taxay, Don. The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Arco Publishing, 1966.