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    

1829 Capped Bust Dime, Tougher Xf Early Date Silver Dime, ** Free Shipping!1811 Capped Bust Dime Semi Key Filler Neat! Hjb - 1835 Capped Bust Dime Xf40 Pcgs1833 Capped Bust Dime, Scarce Choice Xf++/au Early Date, ** Free Shipping!++ Beautiful 1827 Capped Bust Dime ++ Au1833 10c Capped Bust Dime.1837 10c Capped Bust Dime: Anacs Vf 35: Beautifully Tones1835 Capped Bust Dime Silver Us Coin 10c Xf Extra Fine 1835 Extra Fine Liberty Cap Dime Lot Of (4) Full Date Capped Bust Dimes Low Grade Holed 1834 Capped Bust Liberty Dime Silver1834 Capped Bust Dime *free Shipping After First Item*1835 10c Capped Bust Dime 90% Silver Vintage Us Coin #dz13 Very Sharp See Pics1830 Capped Bust Liberty Dime SilverLot Of (4) 1820's Capped Bust Dimes Low Grade FillersLot Of (6) Low Grade Capped Bust Dime 10c Filler Coins Mixed DatesLot Of (4) 1830 Capped Bust Dimes 10c Low Grade Fillers1828 Large Date Capped Bust Dime 10c Filler1834-p Incredibly Georgeous Uncirculated Rare Bust Dime! Remmarkable!1827 Capped Bust Dime - .10c - 90% Silver Coin - Rare Coin Circulated 1834 Philadelphia Mint Silver Capped Bust Dime Free Shipping4 Capped Bust Dimes Lot Unsorted Unsearched Collection1835 Capped Bust Dime 10c Au Detail C6814- 1835 Capped Bust Dime Pcgs Vf Details Rainbow Toned1820 Capped Bust Dime 10c Better Date! Filler1820 Capped Bust Dime Better Date Filler Neat! 1836 Capped Bust Dime Silver Us Coin Xf Extra Fine #1**1835 Dime **1837 Capped Bust Dime, Tough! ** Neat Die Cracks ** Free Shipping!Nice Toned Very Good+ Strong Reverse 1832 Capped Bust Silver 10c Dime Coin1834 Capped Bust Dime Large Reverse Cuds!!!!!1821 Capped Bust Silver Dime ~ Repaired Hole * Circulated Us Coin1831 Capped Bust Liberty Dime Silver1827 Capped Bust Liberty Dime - Punched1835 Bust Dime Vf/xf Coin Is Cleaned1827 10c Capped Bust Dime1831 Capped Bust Dime *free Shipping After First Item*1835 Capped Bust Dime1836 Capped Bust Dime, Choice Vf++/xf Early Series Date! ** Free Shipping!1832 U.s Capped Bust 5 Cent Silver Coin 1835 10c Capped Bust Dime. Us Bust Dime 1833 Lotsep23751814 Capped Bust Dime Tough Date Filler Coin1832 Capped Bust Dime - Great Xf Details - No Reserve1835 10c Capped Bust Dime1835 Bust Dime Full Liberty No ReserveUs 1832 Liberty Capped Bust Dime 10 Cents Km#48 Silver1835 Capped Bust Dime*. Full Liberty. No Shipping.Us Bust Dime 1820 Lotsep2110Us Bust Dime 1827 Lotsep22301832 Bust Dime - Damaged1835 Bust DimeUs Bust Dime 1829 Square Base 2 Lotsep2228**1836 Dime **1821 Large Size Capped Bust Dime Ag/g About Good / Good Open Collar Rare 1834 Capped Bust DimeUs Bust Dime 1831 Lotsep22271829 Bust Dime (hole)1834 Capped Bust Dime Scratches - About Good Details