The Roosevelt Dime is one of the most well-known coins among the American public. The dime hasn’t always been a commemoration of President F.D. Roosevelt, however. Dimes originally featured a variation of Lady Liberty, but in 1946, a new design would be the focus of the dime.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the thirty-second president of the United States, was an esteemed president. He developed the New Deal, which helped to offset the Great Depression and guided the country through one of the worst wars in history. It is no wonder that, after his passing in 1945, the United States would wish to honor him on the dime.
The Roosevelt dime was first released on January 30th, 1946, the year after his passing. It seemed fitting to honor President Roosevelt on the dime because he established the March of Dimes fundraiser, which was first founded to raise support for the cure for polio. Roosevelt was a proponent for searching for a cure for polio because of his contraction of the disease in 1921, though this was largely hid from the public.
Because the release date for the Roosevelt dime was less than a year after the death of FDR, there were few design options available. This is why John R. Sinnock, Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint at the time, was chosen as artist instead of following the recent tradition of commissioning an artist outside of the U.S. Mint. While Sinnock’s design is certainly iconic, there were a few problems in its beginning stages.
The U.S. Mint did not approve of Sinnock’s first Roosevelt dime design. There was enough uncertainty in Sinnock’s design that the Mint considered inviting other artists to submit designs. However, because of the short deadline, the Mint decided against it and Sinnock revised his design. Not only has Sinnock been disputed as the artist in subsequent years, but at the time, the artist's initials "JS" were taken by many Americans during the "Red Scare" of the Cold War to stand for Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Nonetheless, Sinnock’s design has remained unchanged in the 7 decades since.
Sinnock's design includes the portrait of FDR, the word “LIBERTY,” and a smaller “IN GOD WE TRUST” inscription on the obverse. The reverse details a lit torch, an olive branch, an oak branch, and the phrases “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “ ONE DIME,” and “E PLURIBUS UNUM.” The torch, olive branch, and oak branch are symbolic for liberty, peace, and strength, respectively.