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United States dime

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2011 US dime
Coin from 2011
General information

Flag of the United States



Measurements and composition
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  • 2.7 g (1796-1807, 1809-1837)
  • 2.49 g (1838-1891)
  • 2.5 g (1892-1964)
  • 2.27 g (1965-present)
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  • 19 mm (1796-1807, 1809-1837)
  • 17.9 mm (1837-present)

1 mm (1916-present)

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v · d · e

The dime is a United States coin valued at $0.10, and is formally labelled as "one dime". The denomination was originally authorized by the Coinage Act of 1792, but it didn't enter circulation until 1796. It is the smallest U.S. coin in diameter and thickness that is currently in circulation.

Basic history and etymologyEdit

Coinage Act of 1792 1st page
The Coinage Act of 1792 authorized minting of the dime.

The word dime is derived from the Old French word, "disme", meaning "tithe" or "tenth part", which in turn came from the Latin decima. The Coinage Act of 1792 established the dime (spelled as "disme" in the document) cent and mill as subdivisions of the dollar equal to 110, 1100, and 11000 dollar respectively, though today, the term "dime" is only used when referring to the coin, rather than a unit of value.

The first recorded proposal for a decimal-based coin system in the United States was made during 1783 by Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and David Rittenhouse. Hamilton, who was the first Secretary of the United States Treasury, recommended issuing six of these coins in 1791 in a report to Congress. Among these was a silver coin, "which shall be, in weight and value, one tenth part of a silver unit or dollar".

From 1796 until 1837, the dime was composed of 89.24% silver and 10.76% copper, with the value of the coin to be very small to prevent the intrinsic value being worth more than face value. During 1837, with the introduction of the Seated Liberty dimes, the silver content was increased to 90%, while the copper content was reduced to 10%. To maintain the intrinsic value, the new dime's diameter was decreased from 19 millimeters to 17.9 millimeters.

After the Coinage Act of 1965 had been passed, the silver content of the dime was completely removed. Dimes from 1965 to the present have a copper center plated by cupronickel (75% copper, 25% nickel). In 1992, the United States Mint began issuing Silver Proof Sets, which contain Roosevelt dimes using the pre-1965 standard of 90% silver and 10% copper. However, despite being legal tender, these coins are solely for collectors and are not commonly found in circulation.

Design historyEdit

Disme coinEdit

1792 dime

A disme pattern coin from 1792.

The Coinage Act of 1792, which was passed on April 7, 1792, authorized minting of a "disme" coin, one-tenth the silver and weight of the dollar coin. Most were struck in 89.24% silver and 10.76% copper, but others were struck in 100% copper, which indicates these as pattern coins. During this year, a number of these coins were produced but never put into circulation. The first circulated dimes did not appear until 1796, due to a lack of demand and problems at the United States Mint.

Draped Bust dimeEdit

See also: Draped Bust
US 1796 dime

Dime from 1796.

During 1796, the dime was first circulated, using the Draped Bust design. Like the other coins circulated at the time, it displayed an image of Liberty based on a drawing made by Gilbert Stuart of Ann Willing Bingham, the wife of noted statesman, William Bingham, on the obverse. Shown on the reverse was a small Bald Eagle surrounded by palm and olive branches, and perched on a cloud. These designs were made by then-Chief Engraver, Robert Scot. Because the Coinage Act of 1792 only required the half cent and one cent coins to bear their values, Draped Bust dimes had no indication of their value.

All of the 1796 dimes had 15 stars surrounding Helvetia on the obverse, which represented the number of states in the Union at that time. The first dimes minted in 1797 were minted with 17 stars, after Tennessee had joined the Union during June. After realizing that adding a star per state to the dime would clutter the coin's design, Mint Director Elias Boudinot ordered an alteration of the design to display only 13 stars to symbolize the original Thirteen Colonies.

US 1807 dime

A coin from 1807.

In 1798, a new Draped Bust coin made its debut. Like the previous coin, it had also been designed by Robert Scot. The obverse from the preceding series was retained, but the eagle on the reverse from a criticized hatchling to a smaller version of the Great Seal of the United States. This new Heraldic Eagle series was continued until 1807 (though no dimes were minted in 1799 or 1806). Both designs had been composed of 89.24% silver and 10.76% copper. The Draped Bust dimes were used up until 1807.

Capped Bust dimeEdit

See also: Capped Bust
Capped Bust dime

A Capped Bust dime.

The Capped Bust dime, which was first issued in 1809, succeeded the Draped Bust coins. It was designed by Mint Assistant Engraver, John Reich. Both the obverse and reverse of the new coin had been changed greatly. The new obverse featured Liberty's head facing left surrounded by 13 stars and the year of minting. On the reverse was a Bald Eagle holding three arrows (which symbolized strength) and an olive branch (which symbolized peace) in its talons. On the eagle's breast was a U.S. shield. Also on the reverse was the value (written as "10C"), being the only dime minted with the value given in cents (following coins were/are inscribed with the words "ONE DIME"). A total of 122 varieties exist of Capped Bust dimes. They were minted until 1837.

Seated Liberty dimeEdit

Seated Liberty dime

Seated Liberty dime of 1839.

See also: United States Seated Liberty coinage

In 1837, the Seated Liberty dime was introduced. Mint Director, Robert M. Patterson requested a new design on the coins, to be reminiscent of the image of Britannia on the coins of the United Kingdom. William Kneass created the original designs, but suffered from a stroke and became too ill to finish them or oversee preparation of the dies. The task was then given to Christian Gobrecht, who was afterward promoted to Second Engraver.

All the coins had a diameter of 17.9 millimeters. It was composed of 90% silver and 10% copper. Shown on the obverse was Liberty seated on a rock, holding a staff with the Phrygian cap on top in her left hand, and balancing a shield inscribed with "LIBERTY" with her right. Displayed on the reverse was the value (as "ONE DIME") surrounded by a wreath, which was in turn circled by "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" until 1860.

The first design had no stars on its obverse, and a Large Date and Small Date variety were produced. These can be distinguished by the "3" and "7" in the dates. With the Large Date variety, the "3" bears a pointed serif at the top, and the top of the "7" is straight. In the Small Date variety, the "3" bears a rounded serif, and a small knob, or bulge, is present on the "7". The Philadelphia Mint was the only location to produce both varieties. Before its disestablishment, the New Orleans Mint produced Seated Liberty dimes, but only the Small Date variety, which is today only slightly rarer than its Large Date counterpart.

During 1838, thirteen stars were added on the obverse, to symbolize the thirteen original colonies. This was replaced with the inscription, "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA", which was moved over from the reverse during 1860. During the same year, the laurel wreath on the reverse was changed to a wreath of corn, maple, oak, and wheat leaves, which increased in size. This design continued until its series ended and slightly in 1892, with the introduction of the Barber dime.


Seated Liberty dime from the Carson City Mint in 1874.

Arrows by the dates in 1853 and 1873 indicated a change in the dime's mass. In 1853, the coin's mass changed from 2.67 grams to 2.49 grams, and then to 2.5 grams in 1873. This first change was made as a response to rising silver prices, while the alteration afterward was authorized by the Coinage Act of 1873, which, in an attempt to make United States coins currency of the world, increased the mass of the dime, quarter, and half dollar to bring them in line with fractions of the French 5 franc coin. This created the rarest coins of the Seated Liberty series: the 1873 and 1874 Carson City dimes with arrows and the 1873 Carson City dime with no arrows.

Barber dimeEdit

Barber dime 1902

Barber dime from 1902.

See also: United States Barber coinage

The Barber dime was introduced in 1892, which succeeded the former Seated Liberty dimes. It was named after the dime's designer, Chief Engraver, Charles E. Barber. Widespread internal politics surrounded the awarding of a design job, which was at the time open to the public. A four-member committee, which included Barber, was appointed by Director James Kimball to decide on the best designs of the at least 300 submissions. However, the committee only reached a consensus on two of the designs, which led to Director Edward O. Leech, Kimball's successor, to dispense with committees and design competitions, and give Barber the task of creating the new design.

The design of the coin's obverse was the same as all other U.S. coins from the time period. It showed an image of Liberty wearing a Phrygian cap, a laurel wreath with a ribbon, and a band with the inscription, "LIBERTY". This inscription is useful in determining the condition of Barber dimes, as this part of the coin endures much wear. The portrait of Liberty used was inspired by both, French coins and medals from the period, and an Ancient Greek and Roman sculpture. Circling Liberty's head was the inscription, "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" and the year of minting was inscribed below. The reverse featured the value surrounded by a wreath similar in design to the final Seated Liberty dimes. While circulated Barber dimes of the entire series are readily available to collectors, there is one extremely rare coin: the 1894-S Barber Dime. Twenty-four of these coins were minted, but only nine are known to exist. In 1916, the Barber dime was replaced.

Winged Liberty Head ("Mercury") dimeEdit

See also: Mercury dime
US Mercury Dime

A 1942 "Mercury" dime.

The Winged Liberty Head dime, most often referred to as the "Mercury" dime, was first issued in 1916. It was designed by noted sculptor, Adolph Alexander Weinman (a pupil of Augustus Saint-Gaudens), who won a 1915 competition against two other artists for a design job, with the obverse possibly modeled after Elsie Kachel Stevens, the wife of poet, Wallace Stevens. Today, these dimes are considered by many to be one of the most beautiful U.S. coin designs ever produced.

The original composition (90% silver, 10% copper), mass (2.5 grams), and diameter (17.9 millimeters) of the Barber dime were retained. Though the coin is often dubbed as the "Mercury dime", it did not depict the Roman messenger god. The figure on the obverse was a depiction of the goddess, Liberty, wearing a Phrygian cap, a classic symbol representing liberty and freedom, with wings extended to symbolize freedom of thought. Above Liberty was a legend reading, "LIBERTY". To the left of the figure was another legend, reading "IN GOD WE TRUST", and the year of minting was depicted on the right. The design on the reverse was a fasces juxtaposed with an olive branch, which was intended to symbolize America's readiness for war and its desire for peace. The fasces symbol was later used by Benito Mussolini and his National Fascist Party, as well as in American iconography.

1916D Mercury

A 1916-D Mercury dime.

The 1916-D Mercury dime is highly sought after by collectors, largely due to the fact that the majority of dimes produced at the Denver Mint in 1916 used the previous Barber design, and therefore, a small number (264,000) of these coins were minted. Thus, the 1916-D is worth up to thousands of dollars if in relatively fine condition. Several common 1916 Philadelphia dimes have been altered with a "D" added.

Many Mercury dimes exhibit defects, most notably the absence of the line separating the two horizontal bands separating the two horizontal bands in the center of the fasces. The 1945 issue of the Philadelphia Mint rarely ever appears with the band complete from left to right, and as a result, they are worth more than usual for uncirculated specimens. Another more valuable variety is a coin with an overdate, where "1942" was stamped over a 1941 die at the Philadelphia Mint. A less obvious example of the same year is from the Denver Mint. Mercury dimes were minted up until 1945.

Roosevelt dimeEdit

Silver Roosevelt Dime

A silver 1953 Roosevelt dime.

Soon after the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1945, legislation was introduced by Virginia Congressman Ralph Hunter Daughton that called for replacing the Mercury dime with one bearing Roosevelt's image. It was chosen to honor Franklin D. Roosevelt partly because of his efforts in founding the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (now known as the March of Dimes).

Due to the limited amount of time available to design a new dime, the Roosevelt dime became the first general-issue U.S. coin to be designed by a Mint employee in more than 40 years. Chief Engraver John R. Sinnock was chosen for the task, as he had previously designed a Mint presidential medal of Roosevelt. His first design, which was submitted on October 12, 1945, was rejected, but a subsequent design, submitted January 6, 1946, was accepted. It was released to the public on January 30 of that year, on what would have been Franklin D. Roosevelt's 64th birthday. Sinnock's design placed his initials ("JS") at the base of Roosevelt's neck. This caused controversy from strong anti-Communist sentiment in the United States, leading to the proliferation of rumors that the "JS" on the coin was the initials of Premier Joseph Stalin, placed there by a Soviet agent in the mint. The U.S. Mint quickly issued a statement denying these rumors, confirming the initials were Sinnock's.

Roosevelt plaque

The plaque of Roosevelt at the Recorder of Deeds, sculpted by Selma Burke.

Another controversy of Sinnock's design involved his image of Roosevelt. Soon after the coin was released, it was claimed that Sinnock borrowed his design of Franklin D. Roosevelt from a bas relief made by African American sculptor, Selma Burke, which was introduced at the Recorder of Deeds building in Washington, D.C. in 1945. Sinnock denied this accusation, claiming he used the design on his Roosevelt medal.

A depiction of Franklin Delano Roosevelt is present on the obverse of all Roosevelt dimes, with legends, "LIBERTY" and "IN GOD WE TRUST" to the left of Roosevelt, and the year of minting to the right. On the reverse are a torch, olive branch, and oak branch, which symbolize liberty, peace, and victory, respectively. Above these symbols is a legend reading, "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA", and below is the value (as "ONE DIME"). Between the symbols is a legend reading, "E PLURIBUS UNUM".

With the passage of the Coinage Act of 1965, the dime's composition was changed from 90% silver and 10% copper to cupronickel (75% copper, 25% nickel). This composition was selected because it had a similar mass to the silver coins (changed from 2.5 grams to 2.268), for electrical properties (important in vending machines), and because it contained no precious metal.

Beginning in 1992, the United States Mint began production of silver Roosevelt dimes in its annual collector sets. These include a 90% silver proof dime, Washington Quarters, and a Kennedy Half Dollar.

One dime 1976 revised

A Roosevelt dime from 1976.

Since 1946, the Roosevelt Dime has been minted annually. Through 1955, all three operating U.S. mints, in Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco, produced circulating dimes; production at San Francisco ended in 1955, but resumed in 1968 with proof coins only. In 1964, mint marks could be found to the left of the torch on the reverse. This was changed in 1968 to appear above the date, next to Roosevelt's head on the obverse. No mint marks were used on the dime from 1965 to 1967, and Philadelphia did not show a mint mark until 1980. In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Roosevelt dime, 1996 mint sets included a "W" mint marked dime struck at the West Point Mint.

In 2003, a number of conservative Republicans proposed replacing Roosevelt's image on the dime with that of President Ronald Reagan, though he was still alive. Legislation to this was introduced by Representative Mark Souder. Nancy Reagan, Ronald's wife, opposed this legislation, stating it would be wrong to remove his image during December 2003. After Reagan died on June 5, 2004, the legislation gained additional support; however, Souder stated he would not pursue the legislation any further.

See alsoEdit


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