Soon after the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945, legislation was introduced by Virginia Congressman Ralph H. Daughton that called for the replacement of the Mercury dime with one bearing Roosevelt's image. The dime was chosen to honor Roosevelt partly due to his efforts in the founding of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (later renamed the March of Dimes), which originally raised money for polio research and to aid victims of the disease and their families. The public had been urged to send in a dime to the Foundation, and by Roosevelt's death, the Foundation was already popularly known as the "March of Dimes."
Due to the limited amount of time available to design the new coin, the Roosevelt dime was the first regular-issue U.S. coin designed by a Mint employee in more than 40 years. Chief Engraver John R. Sinnock was chosen, as he had already designed a Mint presidential medal of Roosevelt. Sinnock's first design, submitted on October 12, 1945, was rejected, but a subsequent one was accepted on January 6, 1946.
The dime was released to the public on January 30, 1946, which would have been Roosevelt's 64th birthday. Sinnock's design placed his initials ("JS") at the base of Roosevelt's neck, on the coin's obverse. His reverse design elements of a torch, olive branch, and oak branch symbolized, respectively, liberty, peace, and victory.
With the passage of the Coinage Act of 1965, the composition of the dime changed from 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper to a clad "sandwich" of copper between two layers of an alloy of 91.67 percent copper and 8.33 percent nickel. This composition was selected because it gave similar mass (now 2.27 grams instead of 2.5 grams) and electrical properties (important in vending machines)-and most importantly, because it contained no precious metal.
Starting in 1992, the US Mint re-introduced silver coins in its annual collectors sets. This included a 90 percent silver proof Roosevelt Dime, Washington Quarter(s) and Kennedy Half Dollar, a series that continues today.
Since 1946 the Roosevelt dime has been minted every year. Through 1955, all three mints, Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco produced circulating coinage; production at San Francisco ended in 1955, resuming in 1968 with proof coinage only. Through 1964 "D" and "S" mintmarks can be found to the left of the torch. From 1968, the mintmarks have appeared above the date. None were used in 1965-67, and Philadelphia did not show a mintmark until 1980 (in 1982, an error left the "P" off a small number of dimes, which are now valuable). To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the design, the 1996 mint sets included a "W" mintmarked dime made at the West Point Mint. A total of 1,457,000 dimes were issued in the sets.