Editor's note: This article is a part of a series reviewing Utah and U.S. history for KSL.com's Historic section.
SALT LAKE CITY — What is a dime worth?
That depends on which coin you’re looking at; and if you happen to have an 1894 San Francisco-minted silver dime lying around, you could be a millionaire.
Utah businessman and Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen paid $1.32 million for the 125-year-old coin during an auction at the American Numismatic Association 2019 World’s Fair of Money in Chicago Thursday evening.
“It’s one of the three most famous coins that were issued by the United States Mint,” said John Brush, president of Virginia-based David Lawrence Rare Coins, which he co-owns with Hansen. The company made the purchase on behalf of Hansen for his personal collection.
So what makes this 1894 dime so special? It starts at the San Francisco Mint, which produced two dozen early versions of the coin for presentation with the belief that many more would be produced later in the year. However, the U.S. Mint never ordered more versions of the coin, Brush explained. As of 2019, only nine of those coins are known to exist.
Also of note, the coin was once owned by Utah-native Jerry Buss, a businessman who had controlling ownership of the Los Angeles Lakers at the time of his death in 2013, according to Brush.
The U.S. has minted more than 3,600 different regular-issue coins since the Coinage Act of 1792 was enacted. The 1894 dime acquisition leaves Hansen just six coins shy of collecting one of every coin ever minted, Brush added. It’s a project Hansen and David Lawrence Rare Coins have been working on for four years.
Collecting one of every U.S. coin ever minted was a goal that, at least in the coin world, was most-famously accomplished by Louis Eliasburg in 1950. But the famous Eliasberg Collection only dates to 1964. Eliasberg died in 1976, and Brush noted Hansen’s goal is to fill the 55-year gap in U.S. coins.
Brush said he and Hansen are aware of which remaining coins are needed but noted none of the coins are up for sale or auction at this time. He didn’t identify which coins those were but pointed out all six are gold coins and aren’t something that could be found in circulation.
“The coins still remaining on our list are just so significantly rare that there’s probably less than 10 of each of them,” he said. “For us, it comes down to we have to wait. You really want these coins, you know where they are, but you can’t always have them. … Collectors tend to keep the coins that are special to them, and these final coins remaining are certain coins that would be special.”
However, Brush said that the internet has given modern-day coin collectors an advantage because the whereabouts of each coin is easy to find. He explained Eliasberg obtained most of his collection by purchasing two large collections that were in existence at the time. Using the internet nowadays, Brush and Hansen have been able to track down the “the highest quality we can possibly find” of each coin.
While the quest to complete the coin collection continues, Brush added there are plans in the works to exhibit the coins Hansen already owns, including the 1894 dime. They plan to put several of the coins at national shows in the future. They hope doing so will bring interest to the world of coin collection.
“While we’re talking about a $1.32 million coin, coin collecting is still a hobby that can be enjoyed by everyone across the board whether the coin (is worth) $10 or $1 million,” Brush said. “That’s an interesting part of the hobby. You never know what you’ll find in your pocket change.”