Although the United States Congress approved a decimal system for its coinage in 1786, the linchpin denomination, the dime or disme, as it was named in the Coinage Act of 1792, was not minted until 1796. This first U.S. dime, known as the Draped Bust, was designed by mint engravers Robert Scot and John Eckstein, who took their Lady Liberty from a drawing by artist Gilbert Stuart. All silver coins of 1796, including half dimes, quarters, half dollars, and silver dollars, featured the same obverse and reverse.

When the coin was first struck, it didn’t include its denomination on either face (its size was supposed to be the clue). Instead, the coin’s obverse featured the Liberty bust surrounded by 15 stars, one for each state at the time. On the reverse was a rather scrawny eagle bearing a wreath—in 1798, a healthier-looking heraldic bird was substituted for the skinnier one.

Though the mintages of 1796 and 1797 were virtually the same, coins from the second year tend to be more prized by collectors. That’s because mint officials couldn’t quite make up their minds about how many stars to place on the coin’s obverse.

The confusion was caused when Tennessee was granted statehood midway through 1796; for the first run of 1797 coins, the number of stars on the dime was increased by one. But cooler heads quickly realized that this practice was not, as they say today, scalable, so the number of stars on the second batch of 1797 dimes was reduced to 13, the number of original U.S. states.

Another star anomaly occurred in 1804, when the number of stars on the coin’s reverse varied from 13 to 14. That combined with a low mintage of a little more than 8,000 coins makes 1804 dimes some of the rarest around.

Dime production halted in 1806 and again in 1808 before a new Capped Bust, designed by mint engraver John Reich was released in 1809. Based on the design Reich created for the half dollar in 1807, this new version of Liberty faced left instead of right and sported a cap with the word “LIBERTY” across its brim. In addition, "10C" was stamped on the bottom of the coin’s reverse, above which perched yet another version of a heraldic eagle.

As with the Draped Bust dimes, Capped Bust dimes were not always produced in consecutive years. Missing are coins from 1810, 1812-1813, and 1815-1819. Perhaps the most noteworthy...

The Capped Bust dime’s design was modified somewhat in 1828, mostly due to the introduction of new equipment and mechanical procedures at the mint. And the dime’s design was replaced entirely in 1837 by Christian Gobrecht’s Liberty Seated dime, which was minted until 1891.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Legendary Coins and Currency

Legendary Coins and Currency

This online exhibition from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History is a great way to get an overview… [read review or visit site]

Society of U.S. Pattern Collectors

Society of U.S. Pattern Collectors

Home to the Society of U.S. Pattern collectors, this well-organized site provides in-depth information on pattern c… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1814 Capped Bust Dime Jr4 R2 Large Date No Problem Coin No Reserve!1801 Draped Bust Dime Jr1 R4 Fine Details Damage No Reserve!1809 Bust Dime Fine Detail / Tough Date1814 Capped Bust Dime Jr3 R2 Large Date Vf1805 Draped Bust Dime Jr2 4 Berries Variety No Reserve!1825 Capped Bust Dime, ** Free Shipping!1835 Liberty Capped Bust Silver DimeCirculated 1834 Philadelphia Mint Silver Capped Bust Dime Free ShippingPcgs Genuine 1796 Dime Good Details Repaired1811 "liberty Cap" Capped Bust Dime Usa#5434 - 1809 - Capped Bust Dime - Ag1837 Capped Bust Dime Jr-2 R3 State B Tds Dramatic Reverse Die Crack Whoa!!1814 Capped Bust Dime Jr2 R3 Large Date Vf DetailsPcgs Genuine 1805 Dime F Details Graffiti 4 BerriesNice Pair 1825 Capped Bust Dime And 1831 Capped Bust Half Dime! Nice Album Coins1805 Draped Bust Dime Jr1 R3 5 Berries Variety No Reserve!1834 10¢ Bust Dime Nice Xf, No Reserve!1833 10c Capped Bust Dime - Xf With Scratch, Vintage Better Date Coin (282214f)✯1834 Capped Bust Dime 10c ✯ Unc Uncirculated Ms Bu ✯ Rare Key Nr ✯1837 Capped Bust Silver Dime Xf/au. Read!!!1 Old Silver Coin Lot United States 10 Cents 1821 Small Date Capped Bust1831 Capped Bust Dime - Tough To Find Series Circulated ** No Reserve ** D4061827 Capped Bust Dime 1831 10c Anacs Ef401814 Capped Bust Us Dime - Lot E-221835 Us Capped Bust Dime1835 Capped Bust Dime -- Solid F+ / VfLot Of 8 Silver Bust Dimes - 1 With A Hole 136741834 Capped Bust Dime Us 90% Silver Coin Fine Toned 635,000 Minted Key Date1830 Capped Bust Dime Us 90% Silver Coin Very Good Toned 510,000 Minted Key Date1835 Silver Capped Bust Dime! Nice Circulated Key Type Coin! No Reserve! #s111805 Dime! Attractive Vg Detail! (83.5)1832 Capped Bust Dime Extremely Nice 1835 Capped Bust Dime ** Free Shipping!1835 Capped Bust Dime Pcgs Genuine Vf Details *free Shipping* *hucky* 1829 Capped Bust Dime From Estate! Starts @.99c1833 Capped Bust Dime, Tough Early Issue! ** Free Shipping!1835 Bust Dime Vg Detail1834 Capped Bust Silver Dime **nice Silver Early Dime With Hole**1836 Capped Bust Dime Us 90% Silver Coin Very Good Fine1835 Capped Bust Dime Us 90% Silver Coin Very Good Toned 1823 Capped Bust Dime Us 90% Silver Coin Ag Clear Key Date Very Worn Reverse1831 Capped Bust Dime, Problem Free Good-vg, True Auction1834 Silver Capped Bust Dime! Nice Circulated Key Type Coin! No Reserve! #s101830 Capped Bust Silver Dime Certified Ngc Vf Details Cleaned Slab Rotated Dies1823/2 Capped Bust Dime1832 Silver Capped Bust Dime Philadelphia Cap 10 Cents Ten Cleaned & Holed1834 Capped Bust Silver Dime 10c Philadelphia Mint1837 Capped Bust Silver Dime With Partial Rotated Die