The exact mintage of the 1894-S Barber Dime is known to collectors and numismatic researchers from the account books of the San Francisco Mint. A total of 24 dimes are reported to have been struck during the first half of 1894, presumably in June. This was an extraordinarily low mintage compared to other years, when the San Francisco Mint was responsible for the output of at least a million dimes per year. So why was this minuscule number of coins struck, and why were they listed in the account books in the first place?
One theory suggests that John Daggett, the superintendent of the San Francisco Mint in 1894, produced and distributed the small group of 1894-S dimes to seven highly ranking individuals (presumably bankers). He gave three pieces to each individual and kept three for himself, which he later gave to his daughter. This theory does not seem to hold up to scrutiny, as it is known that two examples from the original production went to the assay commission and were later melted, which would leave only 22 examples of the coin. However, we do have a firsthand account from the Superintendent’s daughter Hallie Daggett who recalled her father giving her three of the 1894-S dimes.
An alternate theory appeared as part of a San Francisco Bulletin article written in 1895, shortly after the coins would have been produced. The article mentions a report from a Mint employee that a very small number of dimes were struck to balance the books. The theory was first brought to the attention of numismatic researchers in 1928 with in an article by Farran Zerbe which appeared in the Numismatist. If the theory is true, it would have been a unique situation since it has never happened at any of the other mint facilities. Furthermore, the face value of the 24 dimes amounts to more than the alleged 40 cents difference.
After the curiously miniscule mintage of the 1894-S Barber Dime, no further coins of the denomination would be struck at the San Francisco Mint that year. Production would resume in the following year when more than one million dimes would be struck.