A low-grade sleeper, a 1913-S Barber penny

Everyone likes sleepers. No matter what you collect, you'll buy a coin you think should be considerably more expensive. Collectors can't resist a good offer. The 1913-S Barber dime is popular among coin market observers.

The 1913-S's 510,000 mintage explains its low pricing. That was low then. In the previous century, only the 1916-D Mercury dime had a lesser mintage. That alone suggests the 1913-S will be expensive. G-4 models cost $35, MS-60s $480, and MS-65s $1,375.

Other Barber dime dates are affordable. Barber dimes are sleepers, making the 1913-S difficult to identify. One example of Barber dimes awake during the previous century is hard to find.

The 1894-S reached $1 million at auction in 2005 and has subsequently risen. That's impressive. There are no other auctions of Barber dimes that made headlines. In 1892, when the first Barber coins debuted, numismatic scholar Q. David Bowers says collectors were not interested. The commemorative Columbian Exposition half dollar was the focus.

This disinterest persisted throughout time. Despite the Barber design's lack of inspiration, many weak coins have sold well. From the first to the last Barber coin, they were not highly collected. The date alone, not the mintmark, would have preserved them. Thus, even an excellent date like the 1913-S would likely have circulated until withdrawn and destroyed. Thus, the remaining 1913-S Barber dimes may not even be G-4.

Due to its limited mintage, few 1913-S Barbers in G-4 condition are available at stores and shows. This disappoints bargain hunters. After all, how many G-4 coins under $40 have a similar mintage of any denomination? Not many.

While the 1913-S is a good sleeper pick in some grades, it's common in Mint State. The Professional Coin Grading Service has seen 48 MS-65+ coins, while the NGC has seen 31. Not impressive totals. Compared to the 1909-O Barber dime (37 at PCGS and 21 at NGC), which had a mintage of 2,287,000 and is priced just marginally higher in MS-65 at $1,650, one would wonder which is the true sleeper. One example of this comparison

The 1913-S Barber dime distinguishes out for its limited mintage. It may be a sleeper in G-4 but not Mint State. In general, Barber dimes are sleepers since their prices today are quite low given their number of grading service appearances.

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