The Roosevelt Dime was introduced in 1946, honoring the memory of the nation’s 32nd President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This coin represented the fourth circulating denomination to change its design from an image of Liberty, to that of a former President. Designed by Chief Engraver John R. Sinnock, the Roosevelt Dime was well-received, and over time has become one of the most recognizable coins in American numismatics.
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed away in April, 1945, the American public mourned the loss of their fallen leader, whose passing came just as he was about to celebrate the nation’s victory in World War II, after so many years of hardship. Almost immediately after Roosevelt’s death, U.S. Mint Director Nellie Tayloe Ross initiated plans to commemorate his inspirational leadership throughout the Great Depression and World War II.
The ten-cent piece was chosen to honor President Roosevelt due to all his work for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis—known today as the March of Dimes. Roosevelt, having been afflicted with polio himself, had dedicated much time and effort towards the cause, fighting to end the disease. It seemed only natural to place his portrait on the dime.
Breaking with the tradition of holding a competition to select the design of new coins,
Ross assigned Chief Engraver John R. Sinnock with the task of creating the new coins.Sinnock had previously designed a medal of President Roosevelt that Ross believed was the ideal foundation for the new coin.
Sinnock’s initial models were submitted to the Federal Commission of Fine Arts on October 12, 1945. The Commission rejected the designs, however, on very specific grounds and even suggested that the Mint revert to an invitational competition. Due to the pressing time constraints—the coins had to be ready for issue when the 1946 March of Dimes campaign commenced on the anniversary of Roosevelt’s birthday, January 30—Ross quickly dismissed the suggestion. Instead, Sinnock reworked his model, adhering to the stipulations set forth by the Commission. His next attempt was instantly accepted.
The obverse features a left-facing profile of President Roosevelt. The reverse features an upright torch (symbolizing freedom), flanked by an olive branch (symbolizing peace) and an oak branch (symbolizing victory). The coin itself was composed of 90% silver and 10% copper. This changed in 1965 to a composition of 91.67% copper and 8.33% nickel.
Roosevelt Dimes were coined by the millions, every year from 1946 onward. They were struck at three mints—Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco. From 1946 until 1964, the mintmark was located just to the left of the base of the torch. Then, from 1968 onward, the mintmark was moved above the date. Coins struck in Philadelphia bore no mintmark until 1980, when the letter “P” was introduced. Roosevelt Dimes minted in Denver and San Francisco have always been identified by the letters “D” and “S,” except during the years of 1965 through 1967, when these mintmarks were excluded. The Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mints all made Roosevelt Dimes for circulation through 1955, but in March of that year, San Francisco ceased production. The other two mints continued to strike the dimes through 1965, when the San Francisco Mint restarted dime production again. The dimes dated 1964 that bare no mintmark were struck in the San Francisco Mint during the last months of 1965.
Proof Roosevelt Dimes were struck at the Philadelphia Mint starting in 1950, but coinage of Proofs was suspended when the copper-nickel clad dimes were introduced in 1965. There were no Proofs coined with the dates 1965, 1966 or 1967. However, the San Francisco Mint created “special mint sets” that have a proof-like quality to their surfaces. Proof coinage resumed in 1968, changing from the Philadelphia to the San Francisco Mint.
To commemorate the Roosevelt Dime’s 50th anniversary in 1996, an unusual entry was issued from the West Point Mint. This coin was included in the Mint’s uncirculated set for that year. It is the only dime that carries a “W” mintmark. Interestingly enough, the West Point Mint is located rather close to the Roosevelt Estate at Hyde Park - the very place President Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor were laid to rest.