United States currency/10¢

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The dime is a coin worth ten cents, or one tenth of a United States dollar. The dime is the smallest in diameter and the thinnest of all U.S. coins currently minted for circulation. The 32nd President Franklin D. Roosevelt is featured on the obverse of the current design, while a torch, oak branch, and olive branch covering the motto E pluribus unum are featured on the reverse. Nowhere on the dime is the actual value in cents or dollars stated; the coin is labeled only as "one dime."

Mintage of the dime was commissioned by the Coinage Act of 1792, and production began in 1796. A feminine head representing Liberty was used on the front of the coin, and an eagle was used on the back. The front and back of the dime used these motifs for three different designs through 1837. From 1837 to 1891, "Seated Liberty" dimes were issued, which featured Liberty seated next to a shield. In 1892, a feminine head of Liberty returned to the dime, and it was known as a "Barber dime" (named for coin designer Charles E. Barber). The backs of both of the latter two designs featured the words "ONE DIME" enclosed in various wreaths. In 1916, the head of a winged-capped Liberty was put on the dime and is commonly known by the misnomer of "Mercury dime"; the back featured a fasces. The most recent design change was in 1946.

The composition and diameter of the dime have changed throughout its mintage. Initially the dime was 0.75 inch (19 millimeters) wide, but it was changed to its present size of 0.705 inch (17.91 millimeters) in 1828. The composition (initially 89.24 percent silver and 10.76 percent copper) remained constant until 1837, when it was altered to 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper. Dimes with this composition were minted until 1966, although those minted in 1965 and 1966 bear the date 1964. Beginning in 1965, dimes also began to be minted with a clad composition of cupronickel; this composition is still in use today.

The term dime comes from the French word disme (modern French spelling dîme), meaning "tithe" or "tenth part," from the Latin decima [pars]. This term appeared on early pattern coins, but was not used on any dimes until 1837.

10¢ Of The United States Of America[edit | edit source]

  • Value: 0.1 U.S. dollar
  • Mass: 2.268 g (0.0729 troy oz)
  • Diameter: 17.91 mm (0.705 in)
  • Thickness: 1.35 mm (0.053 in)
  • Edge: 118 reeds
  • Composition: 91.67% Cu, 8.33% Ni
  • Years of Minting: 1796–present


  • Design: Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Designer: John R. Sinnock
  • Design Date: 1946


  • Design: Olive branch, torch, oak branch
  • Designer: John R. Sinnock
  • Design Date: 1946

General History[edit | edit source]

The first known proposal for a decimal-based coinage system in the United States was made in 1783 by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and David Rittenhouse. Hamilton, the nation's first Secretary of the Treasury, recommended the issuance of six such coins in 1791, in a report to Congress. Among the six was a silver coin, "which shall be, in weight and value, one tenth part of a silver unit or dollar." His suggested name for the new coin was a "tenth."

The Coinage Act of 1792, passed on April 2, 1792, authorized the mintage of a "disme," one-tenth the silver weight and value of a dollar. The composition of the disme was set at 89.24 percent silver and 10.76 percent copper. In 1792, a limited number of dismes were minted but never circulated. Some of these were struck in copper, indicating that the 1792 dismes were in fact pattern coins. The first dimes minted for circulation did not appear until 1796, due to a lack of demand for the coin and production problems at the United States Mint.

The original dime, now referred to as the Draped Bust dime, contained no markings to indicate the coin's value. This continued until the issuance of the Capped Bust dime in 1809. The Capped Bust dime bore a "10 C." mark on its reverse. The mintage of the dime during the Draped Bust/Capped Bust period was not regular—the Draped Bust was not minted in 1799 or 1806, while in the period from 1809 to 1820, the Capped Bust was minted only in 1809, 1811, 1814, and 1820. The dime has been minted nearly every year since 1827, although some years have seen extremely limited mintage figures.

In 1837, the dime was altered to incorporate the Seated Liberty design, which had debuted the previous year with the dollar coin. In addition, changes to the dime's diameter and silver content were made. The Seated Liberty dime was minted for 54 years, the longest stretch for any design until the Roosevelt dime reached its 55th year in 2001.

In 1892 the Barber dime debuted, and it lasted until 1916. Of the Barber dime series, the 1894-S is particularly notable; only 24 examples are known to have been struck, of which only nine are known to still exist. One such example sold for US$1.3 million at an auction on March 7, 2005, the most ever paid for a dime in auction.

The Barber dime design was replaced in 1916 by the Winged Liberty Head design, more commonly referred to as the Mercury dime. The figure on the coin's obverse is often thought to be the Roman god Mercury, but is in fact a depiction of Liberty (all other dimes except the Roosevelt dime feature an image of Liberty as well). The Mercury dime is considered to be one of the most visually appealing of all U.S. coins, and is highly sought after by collectors.

The Mercury dime was replaced in 1946 by the Roosevelt dime, designed in honor of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died in April 1945. Although other coins were eligible for an updated design (the design of any coin may be changed without Congressional approval after 25 years), the dime was chosen due to Roosevelt's work in founding the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, even then unofficially known as the March of Dimes, a name it later officially adopted. Although the dime has not undergone any major design changes since its introduction, its composition changed significantly in 1965. The Coinage Act of 1965 removed the silver content from the dime (as well as the quarter and, in 1971, the half dollar), and replaced it with a clad composition of 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel. Dimes with the silver composition were minted in 1965 and 1966 but bore the date 1964 to increase mintage figures and prevent hoarding of it. The clad Roosevelt dime is currently in circulation, and no major design changes are planned. An attempt was made by Congressional Republicans in 2003 to replace Roosevelt's image with that of President Ronald Reagan, but this was short-lived.

The reeded edge on the modern dime is a holdover from earlier designs. The reeding was placed on gold and silver coins to discourage counterfeiting and fraudulent use, such as filing down the edges to collect the dust for profit. Currently, none of the coins produced for circulation contain precious metals. However, the continued use of reeded edges on current circulating coinage of larger denominations is useful to the visually impaired. The edge of a modern dime has 118 ridges.

Design History[edit | edit source]

Since its introduction in 1796, the dime has been issued in six different major types. The name for each type indicates the design on the coin's obverse, the Barber dime excepted.

Draped Bust[edit | edit source]

The first dime to be circulated was the Draped Bust dime, in 1796. It featured the same obverse and reverse as all other circulating coins of the time, the so-called Draped Bust/Small Eagle design. This design was the work of then-Chief Engraver Robert Scot. The portrait of Liberty on the obverse was based on a Gilbert Stuart drawing of prominent Philadelphia socialite Ann Willing Bingham, wife of noted American statesman William Bingham. The reverse design is of a small Bald Eagle surrounded by palm and olive branches, and perched on a cloud. Since the Coinage Act of 1792 required only that the cent and half cent display their denomination, Draped Bust dimes were minted with no indication of their value.

All 1796 dimes have 15 stars on the obverse, representing the number of states then in the Union. The first 1797 dimes were minted with 16 stars, reflecting Tennessee's admission as the 16th state. Realizing that the practice of adding one star per state could quickly clutter the coin's design, U.S. Mint Director Elias Boudinot ordered a design alteration, to feature just 13 stars (for the thirteen original colonies). Therefore, 1797 dimes can be found with either 13 or 16 stars.

Also designed by Robert Scot, the Heraldic Eagle reverse design made its debut in 1798. The obverse continued from the previous series, but the eagle on the reverse was changed from the widely criticized "scrawny" hatchling to a scaled-down version of the Great Seal of the United States. The Draped Bust/Heraldic Eagles series continued through 1807 (although no dimes dated 1799 or 1806 were minted). Both Draped Bust designs were composed of 89.24 percent silver and 10.76 percent copper.

Capped Bust[edit | edit source]

The Draped Bust design was succeeded by the Capped Bust, designed by Mint Assistant Engraver John Reich. Both the obverse and reverse were changed extensively. Although the model used for the portrait of Liberty on the obverse has never been named, Mint writer William Ewing DuBois claimed that the model was "Reich's fat German mistress." The new reverse featured a Bald Eagle grasping three arrows (symbolizing strength) and an olive branch (symbolizing peace). Covering the eagle's breast is a U.S. shield with six horizontal lines and 13 vertical stripes. Also on the reverse is the lettering "10C," making it the only dime minted with an explicit indication of its value (subsequent issues are inscribed with the words "ONE DIME").

Capped Bust dimes minted through 1828 are known as the Large type. This is partially due to the fact that they were struck without a restraining collar, which gave them a broader appearance. In 1828, Chief Engraver William Kneass introduced the close collar method of coining (which automated the process of placing reeds on a coin's edge). In addition to standardizing the diameter of coins, the new method allowed the Mint to produce thicker coins. To maintain a standard weight and alloy, the diameter of most coins was reduced. In particular, the dime was reduced in diameter from 18.8 to 18.5 millimeters. This new Capped Bust dime, which began production in 1828, is known as the Small type.

Seated Liberty[edit | edit source]

The "Seated Liberty" designs appeared on most regular-issue silver United States coinage during the mid- and late-nineteenth century, from 1836 through 1891. The denominations which featured the Seated Liberty design included the half dime, the dime, the quarter, the half dollar, and the silver dollar. Another coin that appeared exclusively in the Seated Liberty design was the twenty cent piece. This coin was produced from 1875 to 1878, and was discontinued because it looked very similar to the quarter. Seated Liberty coinage was minted at the main United States Mint in Philadelphia, as well as the branch mints in New Orleans, San Francisco, and Carson City.

Basic Design[edit | edit source]

Obverse[edit | edit source]

The basic obverse design of the Seated Liberty coinage consisted of the figure of the goddess Liberty clad in a flowing dress and seated upon a rock. In her left hand, she held a pole surmounted by a liberty cap, which had been a pre-eminent symbol of freedom during the movement of Neoclassicism. Although it had fallen out of favor in Europe by 1830, Neoclassicism remained in vogue in the United States until after the American Civil War. Liberty's right hand rested on the top corner of a striped shield with a diagonal banner inscribed with the word "LIBERTY." The shield represented preparedness in the defense of freedom. The date of the coin appeared on the bottom below Liberty.

Reverse[edit | edit source]

The basic reverse design of Seated Liberty coins depended on the denomination. The size of half dimes and dimes necessitated a smaller array of elements. On these coins, the reverse consistently featured a wreath around the words "HALF DIME" or "ONE DIME". Before 1860, this wreath consisted of laurel leaves, a traditional Neoclassical image, but beginning that year, the wreath was enlarged and was filled not only with leaves, but also traditional American agricultural products, such as corn and wheat. On quarter, half dollars, and silver dollar coins, the reverse featured a central eagle about to take flight, with a striped shield upon its breast. The eagle clutched an olive branch of peace in its right talons and a group of arrows in its left talons. Above the eagle around the rim were the words "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" and below the eagle around the rim lay the coin denomination. Beginning in 1866 the coins featured a ribbon with the motto "In God We Trust" above the eagle.

Modifications[edit | edit source]

Stars[edit | edit source]

When the first Seated Liberty half dimes and dimes appeared in 1837, the obverse contained no stars. The next year, the coins featured thirteen six-pointed stars around the rim, commemorating the original thirteen colonies.

Drapery[edit | edit source]

The Seated Liberty coins featured a few minor design changes over the years. Around 1840 (the exact date depends upon the denomination), extra drapery was added to Liberty's left elbow.

Arrows and rays[edit | edit source]

This 1853 Seated Liberty Quarter features both arrows and rays. This 1853 Seated Liberty Quarter features both arrows and rays.

In 1853 and 1873, the U.S. Mint changed the weight of each denomination of silver coins. Both times, arrows were added to the coins on each side of the date. These were removed from coins in 1856 and 1875, respectively. In 1853, the mint also placed rays around the eagle on the reverse of half dollars and quarters, a feature which endured for that one year only.

Legend and Mintmarks[edit | edit source]

In 1860 the U.S. Mint eliminated the stars on the obverse of Seated Liberty half dimes and dimes, replacing them with the legend "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," which had previously appeared around the wreath on the reverse of the coins. Before this time, half dimes and dimes minted in New Orleans and San Francisco had featured their mintmarks inside the wreaths. Afterwards, the "O" and "S" (and, later, the "CC" for Carson City) mintmarks were located below the wreath next to the rim. On quarters, half dollars, and silver dollars, the mintmarks were always placed below the eagle but above the coin currency on the reverse.

Barber[edit | edit source]

Liberty Head ("Barber") designs appeared on United States minor silver coinage (the dime, quarter, and half dollar) from 1892 to 1916. They derive their common name from their designer, Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber.

Origins[edit | edit source]

In 1887, Mint Director James P. Kimball included a statement in his annual report to the United States Congress requesting a coinage redesign. He proposed a process whereby distinguished artists would be invited to participate in the design process, and, in 1890, the United States Department of the Treasury asked ten eminent American artists to submit design proposals for minor silver coinage. However, this plan proved unworkable when the artists made financial demands that the Treasury was unwilling to meet. The next effort was a contest open to the public, but none of the designs submitted in this manner were satisfactory to the Mint. Ultimately, it fell to Charles Barber to create new designs for silver coinage. He did so, and the designs were first placed into production in 1892.

Basic Design[edit | edit source]

Obverse[edit | edit source]

The basic obverse design of the Barber silver coinage consisted of a Liberty head with a cap and wreath. This figure was inspired both by classical Greek and Roman models and by the designs of various 19th-century French coinage. The word "LIBERTY" appeared on the headband in incuse; since it wears relatively quickly in circulation, it is often used by numismatists to help determine the condition of circulated coins. The Liberty head is flanked by six stars on the left and seven on the right, and the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST" appears above it. The date is centered below the figure.

Reverse[edit | edit source]

There were two basic reverse designs on Barber coinage. The dime featured a wreath of American agricultural products with the words "ONE DIME" in the center. The mint mark, if any, was positioned below the wreath. This reverse design differed little from that of the old Seated Liberty dime.

On the quarter and half dollar, a heraldic eagle, similar to that featured on the Great Seal of the United States, is the central design element, with "QUARTER DOLLAR" or "HALF DOLLAR" and the mint mark (if any) located beneath it. As on the Great Seal, the eagle carries a banner in its beak reading "E PLURIBUS UNUM", and the amount of the motto visible is helpful to numismatic graders in determining the condition of circulated specimens. A field of 13 stars (the same number as on the obverse, representing the 13 original American colonies) appears above the eagle, and on the top edge, "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" is inscribed.

Collectible Barber Coins[edit | edit source]

Although the Barber series contains few mint marks or other aberrations, the 1894-S Barber Dime is one of the most valuable coins ever produced by the United States. Only 24 were produced. Of those, only nine remain, one of which sold for $1.9 million in 2007.

Winged Liberty Head (Mercury)[edit | edit source]

Although most commonly referred to as the Mercury dime, the coin does not depict the Roman messenger god. The obverse figure is a depiction of Liberty wearing a Phrygian cap, a classic symbol of liberty and freedom, with its wings intended to symbolize freedom of thought. Designed by noted sculptor Adolph A. Weinman, the Winged Liberty Head dime is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful U.S. coin designs ever produced. The composition (90 percent silver, 10 percent copper) and diameter (17.9 millimeters) of the Mercury dime was unchanged from the Barber dime.

Weinman (who had studied under Augustus Saint-Gaudens) won a 1915 competition against two other artists for the design job, and is thought to have modeled his version of Liberty on Elsie Kachel Stevens, wife of noted poet Wallace Stevens. The reverse design, a fasces juxtaposed with an olive branch, was intended to symbolize America's readiness for war, combined with its desire for peace. The fasces would later become a symbol of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's Fascist National Party, leading some to criticize the dime's design.

The 1916-D issue of only 264,000 coins is highly sought after, due largely to the fact that the overwhelming majority of the dimes struck at Denver in 1916 carried the pre-existing Barber design. Thus, the 1916-D is worth up to thousands of dollars if it is in relatively fine condition. Many coins in this series exhibit striking defects, most notably the fact that the line separating the two horizontal bands in the center of the fasces is often missing, in whole or in part; the 1945 issue of the Philadelphia Mint hardly ever appears with this line complete from left to right, and as a result, such coins are worth more than usual for uncirculated specimens. No dimes bear the dates of 1922, 1932, or 1933. A valuable variety is an overdate, where 1942 was stamped over a 1941 die at the Philadelphia mint. A less obvious example from the same years is from the Denver mint.

Of particular interest to numismatists is the condition of the horizontal bands tying together the bundle on the fasces, on the coin's reverse. On well-struck examples, separation exists within the two sets of bands (known as Full Split Bands). Coins exhibiting this feature are typically valued higher than those without it.

Roosevelt[edit | edit source]

Soon after the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in April 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.[20] 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.

Controversy immediately ensued, as strong anti-Communist sentiment in the United States led to the circulation of rumors that the "JS" engraved on the coin was the initials of Joseph Stalin, placed there by a Soviet agent in the mint. The Mint quickly issued a statement refuting this, confirming that the initials were indeed Sinnock's. Perhaps to avoid further controversy, when Sinnock designed the Franklin half dollar two years later, he used his full initials: JRS. (Stalin's middle name was Vissarionovich.)

Another controversy surrounding Sinnock's design involves his image of Roosevelt. Soon after the coin's release, it was claimed that Sinnock borrowed his design of Roosevelt from a bas relief created by African American sculptor Selma Burke, unveiled at the Recorder of Deeds Building in Washington D.C. in September 1945. Sinnock denied this, claiming that he simply utilized his earlier design on the Roosevelt medal.

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 75 percent copper and 25 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.

Soon after the change of composition, silver dimes (as well as silver quarters and half dollars) began to disappear from circulation, as people receiving them in change hoarded them (see Gresham's law). Although now rare in circulation, silver dimes may occasionally turn up in customers' change.

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, and the latter two since that date. Beginning in 1968, San Francisco produced only proof coinage. 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 was 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. With a coinage of 1,457,000, they are not particularly scarce.

In 2003, a group of conservative Republicans in Congress proposed removing Roosevelt's image from the dime, and replacing it with that of President Ronald Reagan, although he was still alive. Legislation to this effect was introduced in November 2003 by Indiana Representative Mark Souder. Amongst the more notable opponents of the legislation was Nancy Reagan, who in December 2003 stated that, "When our country chooses to honor a great president such as Franklin Roosevelt by placing his likeness on our currency, it would be wrong to remove him." After President Reagan's death in June 2004, the proposed legislation gained additional support. Souder, however, stated that he was not going to pursue the legislation any further.

From 1796 to 1837, dimes were composed of 89.24 percent silver and 10.76 percent copper, the value of which required the coins to be very small to prevent their intrinsic value being worth more than face value. The composition was altered slightly in 1837 with the introduction of the Seated Liberty dime; the silver content was increased to 90 percent, while the copper content was reduced to 10 percent. To maintain the intrinsic value of the new dime, its diameter was reduced from 18.8 millimeters (0.740 inch) to its current figure of 17.9 millimeters (0.705 inch).

With the passage of the Coinage Act of 1965, the dime's silver content was removed. Dimes from 1965 to the present are composed of 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel. Starting in 1992, the U.S. Mint began issuing Silver Proof Sets annually, which contain dimes composed of the pre-1965 standard of 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper. These sets are intended solely for collectors, and are not meant for general circulation.

-km 23:48, 4 February 2008 (UTC)

More from km[edit | edit source]