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 Scarce Silver Type 1821 Philadelphia Mint Silver Capped Bust Dime Free Shipping1829 Capped Bust Dime Nice Strong Detail 1805 10c 5 Berries Draped Bust Dime Vf20 Ngc Brown Label1805 Draped Bust Silver One Dime1801 Drapped Bust Dime ~ Ngc Certified1820 Us Capped Bust Dime1796-1807 Draped Bust Dime No Date Nice Original Type Coin L@@k #m1231809 10c Jr-1 Capped Bust Dime Pcgs F151807 Draped Bust Dime With Heraldic Eagle Reverse Anacs Fr2Bust Dime - Variety Identification Guide. Absolutely No Reserve, Starts At 1cUs 1827 Capped Bust Silver Dime Coin1823/22 Philadelphia Mint Silver Capped Bust Dime Free Shipping1829 Philadelphia Mint Silver Capped Bust Dime Free Shipping1835 Capped Bust Dime, Tough Choice Xf Early Silver, ** Free Shipping!1834 Large Four Liberty Cap Bust Dime Coin1834 Capped Bust Dime Ngc Vg Details1821 Capped Bust DimeUnited States Of America 1832 Capped Bust Ten Cent Silver Dime Coin.1833 Capped Bust Dime- Fine+/very Fine !! #j3708 1821 Us Silver Dime Capped Bust -plz Check Pics/listing.1834 Capped Bust Dime - Most The Major Details Are Still Well Outlined1834 Philadelphia Mint Silver Capped Bust Dime Free Shipping1827 Capped Bust Dime, True Auction - No Reserve1837 Icg G4 Jr#4 Capped Bust Dime! #a15191835 Capped Bust Dime ** Free Shipping!1829 Capped Bust Dime Ngc Ag 31827 Capped Bust DimeCapped Bust Dime 1834 Full Liberty About Fine1835 10c Capped Bust Dime1820 Philadelphia Mint Silver Capped Bust Dime Free Shipping1835 Philadelphia Mint Silver Capped Bust Dime Free Shipping1821 Highly Sought Date Capped Bust Dime1829 Capped Bust Dime, Really Nice Condition, True Auction - No ReserveSeated Liberty Dime Ten Cent 1840-o 1833 Capped Bust Dime10c Dime 1833 Ag/g Silver Draped Bust Clear Date Even Original Golden Grey.10c Dime 1835 G/ag Silver Draped Bust Clear Date Even Original Golden Grey.1834 Bust Dime ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++#185+++++++++++++++++++++++++++10c Dime 1836 G/ag Silver Draped Bust Clear Date Even Original Golden Grey.1835 Capped Bust Dime - Circulated Condition - 19su-21820 Small 0 Capped Bust Dime "notched Stars" Jr-5 R4 Scarce Vf+ #s1835 10c Capped Bust Dime 89% Silver Coin No Reserve! 10 Cent Piece