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    

1803 Draped Bust 10 Cents Very Fine+ Rare Date!!1814 10c Jr-5 Statesofamerica Capped Bust Dime Pcgs Vg-101832 Capped Bust Dime, Tough Coin, ** Free Shipping!L@@k 1837 Bust Dime Pcgs Certified $0.99 No Reserve Auction! Bid! Bid! Bid! 1803 10c Pcgs Fr02 Draped Bust Dime Very Rare Low Mintage 33,0401801 10c Pcgs & Cac Fr02 Draped Bust Dime Rare Low Mintage 34,6401835 Capped Bust Dime, ** Free Shipping!L@@k 1835 Bust Dime Pcgs Certified $0.99 No Reserve Auction! Bid! Bid! Bid! 1836 Capped Bust Dime - Good Details 1830 Capped Bust Dime - About Good Details 1836 Capped Bust Dime - About Good Details 1835 Capped Bust Dime - Outstanding Condition, Great Tone & Detail!1821 Capped Bust Dime1834 10c Pcgs Vf Details Large 4 Capped Bust Dime1827 Capped Bust Dime Full Liberty1831 Capped Bust Dime - Good Details 1863 Civil War Token Ngc Au-58 Bn F-1/312 A Army & Navy Military1834 Capped Bust Dime~low Mintage~1833 Capped Bust Dime Free Shipping1821 Large Date Key High Grade Capped Bust Dime From Big Collection1837 Capped Bust Dime1833 Capped Bust Dime1834 Capped Bust Dime - About Good Details 1835 Xf/au Capped Bust Dime Great Condition !!!Coa Silver 1789 Colonial Dutch Colonial New York Dime! Utrecht Mint 10 Cent Lion1834 Cape Bust 10 Cent Very Nice Coin For Auction A Nice Bust 10 Cent,,,,,,Coa Silver 1780 Colonial Old Dutch Colonial New York Dime Hollandia Lion Dime1833 Capped Bust Dime Fine++/vfCoa Silver 1778 Colonial Old Dutch Colonial New York Dime! West Frisia Mint 10 1834 Bust Dime - No Problem Straight CoinCoa Silver 1789 Colonial Old Dutch Colonial New York Dime! West Frisia Mint 101829 Very High Grade Capped Bust Dime From Big Collection1835 Capped Bust Dime - About Good Details 1835 Capped Bust Dime - Very Good Details 2 Capped Bust Dime, Both Good, 1829, 1834, True Auction, No Reserve1833 Xf Capped Bust Silver 10c Dime Id# Jj9221823 Capped Bust Us Dime .10 Coin1837 Capped Bust Dime! Great Detail! Better Date!! Bc10c371834 Capped Bust Dime (ngc Graded) Original Struck In Good1827 Capped Bust Dime ** Free Shipping!Well Traveled Holed Old Us 90% Capped Bust 1853 Dime Coin Civil War Era $1.99 Sh1836-p Capped Bust Dime 10c - Fine Details - Rev Damaged / Mount Removed *nr1834 Bust Dime Free Shipping1833 Bust Dime 101821 Capped Bust Silver Dime - Hole Filler1827 Capped Bust Dime Rare Coin, Highly Collectable1834 Capped Bust Us Dime .10 Coin1835 Capped Bust Dime Free Shipping1835 Capped Bust Dime, Circulated, Date Legible, Damaged...1834 Us Capped Bust Liberty Dime! Old Us Coins!1834 Bust Dime 101820 Capped Bust Silver Dime ~ About Good1835 Bust Dime 10