The Barber dime, also known as the Liberty Head dime, was struck from 1892 until 1916. Featuring the same obverse as the quarters and half dollars of the same name, all designed by Charles E. Barber, these coins depicted the head and neck of Liberty wearing a laurel wreath.

The redesign of the dime was a part of an overall push to update U.S. coinage. At first the U.S. Treasury invited 10 prominent artists to submit designs, but when they collectively balked at the low fee and lack of compensation for the losers, the government threw the competition open to anyone who wanted to enter. Judges included sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, whose 1907 Double Eagle is considered by many numismatists to be the most beautiful American coin ever made; a Boston engraver named Henry Mitchell; and the mint’s chief engraver, Charles E. Barber.

As it turned out, Barber had wanted to design the coin himself, so he saw to it than none of the 300 or so entries were deemed good enough. A century later, many critics are no less kind about Barber’s dime. The obverse is little more than a flopped version of the 1878 Morgan silver dollar, while the reverse, like the Liberty Seated dimes that preceded Barber’s, featured former mint engraver James Longacre’s Cereal Wreath design, which had been in use since 1860.

Barber dimes were minted in Philadelphia, New Orleans, Denver, and San Francisco. Mintmarks are on the reverse, at the bottom of the coin just below the wreath. In general, the mintages for the coin were high—in all but one year, 1895, the Philadelphia mint struck the most.

While not an especially rare coin, some Barber dimes have attracted the attention of collectors. For example, New Orleans dimes minted in 1895 are prized due to the low mintage (440,000) and presence of double dates and inconsistent mintmarks. But the most valuable Barber dime is the 1894 struck in San Francisco, of which there were only 24 proofs. In recent years, one of these coins sold at auction for more than $1.5 million.

In 1916, with war raging in Europe and the U.S. on the brink of entering the conflict, Barber dimes were replaced by Winged Liberty Head dimes, also known as Mercury dimes.


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