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1916 Final Year for Barber Dime Design
By Tom LaMarre, Coins Magazine
April 02, 2013

This article was originally printed in Coins Magazine.
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Barber dimes supported many causes in 1916, the design’s final year. Everyone loved them, from Socialists to Suffragettes. Barber dimes even launched a battleship fund that still exists today.

A Brooklyn girl, 13-year-old Marjorie Sterrett, came up with the idea of using dimes to build a battleship. It was part of the larger preparedness movement before the United States entered World War I. The Battleship Fund solicited dimes from young people.

Former President Theodore Roosevelt, a champion of preparedness, praised the effort. He sent four dimes for his grandchildren and six additional dimes for future grandkids.

Ironically, at the same time, Socialists were trying to collect 10 million dimes to campaign against military and naval preparedness in the United States.

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Although 1916 was a presidential election year, women had not yet achieved the right to vote. On Sept. 5, 1916, Suffragettes staged a parade in New Haven, Conn., hoping to win a Republican Party endorsement. To defray parade expenses, they made 1,500 small coin banks. Each would hold 25 dimes and was decorated with the state flag in violet and white.

One side of the banks had the message “Votes for Women” in green. Above it was “Keep Your Colors Flying.” The other side said, “Give a Dime for Liberty and Justice” in purple, green and white. The banks were rented to Suffragettes for 10 cents each and returned to headquarters after they had been filled.

The Barber dime’s successor, the Mercury dime, was supposed to go into circulation in July 1916. Die preparation problems delayed its debut until late October.

“Uncle Sam is going to have new styles in his coins,” the July 22, 1916, issue of the Clinton Mirror said, “and next Fall we are going to have dimes, quarters and half dollars of designs never before seen in the minted money of this country.” In the meantime, the mints were busy turning out Barber dimes.

The Philadelphia Mint struck more than 18 million Barber dimes in 1916. The San Francisco Mint struck nearly 6 million. Apparently the Denver area had a glut of dimes on hand. It waited for the arrival of Mercury dime dies before striking any 10-cent pieces in 1916. Even then, its production was far below that of the other mints.

The Denver situation was unusual in the era of dime novels, concerts and baseball games. In September 1916, the government’s food administrator, Herbert Hoover, urged bakers to abandon the five-cent loaf of bread and standardize the 10-cent loaf.

Many people saved dimes. A newspaper ad for the Easton Trust Co. said:

“Let us suggest some methods as to how it is easy to save money. Save all coins of a certain denomination—pennies, nickels or dimes. Or whenever you make a purchase at a bargain price, save the difference between that and the regular price. In that way, bargain sales will have a real meaning to you. Deposit these amounts with our Company and notice how fast the amount will grow.”

Barber dimes dated 1916 haven’t done badly either, but they are still a bargain. The value guide in Coins lists a 1916 Philadelphia or San Francisco Barber dime at around $8 in Very Fine-20.

The Battleship Fund is also going strong. The Tribune Association established the Marjorie Sterrett Battleship Fund in 1917. Every year, the U.S. Navy’s Chief of Naval Operations presents the Marjorie Sterrett Battleshihp Fund Award to one ship in the Atlantic Fleet and one in the Pacific Fleet.

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