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    

1796 Jr-6 Draped Bust Dime, Pcgs G Details, A Solid Vg David Kahn Rare Coins1831 Capped Bust Silver Dime. Xf1831 10c Capped Bust Silver Dime1814 Capped Bust Dime 10 Cent Piece Us Silver Coin (estate Fresh)1831 Capped Bust 10 Cents About Uncirculated1814 Capped Bust Dime, Tough Early Date Survivor, ** Free Shipping!1814 Bust Dime 10¢- Fine1820 Capped Bust Silver Us Dime 10c Philadelphia- Ding -you Grade It - H441837 Capped Bust Dime - Jr-3 R2 - Pggs Vf20 - Neat Obverse Die Crack1834 10c Capped Bust Silver Dime1829 Capped Bust Dime, Tough Choice Xf++ Early Date, ** Free Shipping!1833 Jr.1 Capped Bust Dime, Pcgs Vf-35, Original & Sweet David Kahn Rare Coins1833 10c Cent Capped Bust Silver Dime Ngc Xf Extra Fine Details Still Lustrous1823/2 Jr-3 Large E's Capped Bust Dime, Pcgs Vg-8, Sweet David Kahn Rare Coins1836 Capped Bust Silver Us Dime 10c Philadelphia -you Grade It - H681834 "capped Bust" Dime 1828 Capped Bust Dime1834 Capped Bust Silver Dime Nicely Defined Collector Coin1829 Capped Bust Dime - Very Good Details / Pitted Coa Silver 1728 Colonial Old Dutch Colonial New York Dime Hollandia Lion Dime   1836 Capped Bust Silver Us Dime 10c Philadelphia -scratched-you Grade It - H761835 Capped Bust Silver Us Dime 10c Philadelphia -you Grade It - H501834 Capped Bust Silver Dime. Vf++1831 Capped Bust Dime 15% Rotated Reverse1833 10c Capped Bust Silver Dime1827 Bust Dime 10¢- Good CleanedCoa Silver 1744 Colonial Old Dutch Colonial New York Dime Hollandia Lion Dime   1805 Draped Bust Dime Anacs Ag3 Details1835 Capped Bust Silver Dime1823 Over 22 Capped Bust Type Dime 10c Silver *scarce Over 190 Yrs Old*no=reservCoa Silver 1792 Colonial Old Dutch Colonial New York Dime Hollandia Lion Dime   Capped Bust 1821 Dime Large Date 1821 Capped Bust Dime From Big Collection1835 Bust Dime 10¢- Vg"1827", Capped Bust Dime, (lower-grade), "full, "date". Lots Of Honest Wear.Coa Silver 1725 Colonial Old Dutch Colonial New York Dime Hollandia Lion Dime   Two Capped Bust Dimes: 1834 And 18361837 Capped Bust Dime1832 10c - Silver Capped Bust Dime - Circulated.1832 Capped Bust Dime Full Liberty Net Grade Coin K14131835 Bust Dime - #71571820 & 2 No Date Bust Dimes1830 Capped Bust Dime! Worn, But Guaranteed Genuine! 1827 Capped Bust Dime- Semi-key !! Better Date !! #a64451835 Capped Bust Dime1834 Capped Bust DimeCirculated 1833 Philadelphia Mint Silver Capped Bust Dime Free Shipping