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    

1831 Capped Bust Dime ** Free Shipping!1829 Capped Bust Dime, Tougher Xf Early Date Silver Dime, ** Free Shipping!Hjb - 1835 Capped Bust Dime Xf40 Pcgs1823 Bust Dime Nice Original Strong Detail1811 Capped Bust Dime Semi Key Filler Neat! 1837 U.s. Capped Bust Dime++ Beautiful 1827 Capped Bust Dime ++ Au1837 10c Capped Bust Dime: Anacs Vf 35: Beautifully Tones1832 Capped Bust Dime ** Free Shipping!1835 Capped Bust Dime Silver Us Coin 10c Xf Extra Fine 4 Capped Bust Dimes Lot Unsorted Unsearched Collection1833 Capped Bust Dime, Scarce Choice Xf++/au Early Date, ** Free Shipping!1836 Capped Bust Silver Dime Vg+ * Circulated Us CoinLot Of (4) Full Date Capped Bust Dimes Low Grade Holed 1834 Silver Capped Bust Dime *free Shipping* *hucky* 1835 Extra Fine Liberty Cap Dime 1837 Capped Bust Dime 10 Cents Silver Usa Coin 1834 Capped Bust Dime *free Shipping After First Item*Lot Of (4) 1830 Capped Bust Dimes 10c Low Grade Fillers1836 Capped Bust Dime Silver Us Coin Xf Extra Fine #1Lot Of 4 Capped Bust Dimes, 10c, 1835, 1836, 1838, Partial Date, Ungraded1835 Capped Bust Dime 10c Au Detail 1814 Capped Bust Silver Dime Coin1833 10c Capped Bust Dime.1834 Capped Bust Dime Large Reverse Cuds!!!!!1835 10c Capped Bust Dime 90% Silver Vintage Us Coin #dz13 Very Sharp See Pics1820 Capped Bust Dime Better Date Filler Neat! 1824/2 Capped Bust Dime G Vg Good / Very Good Large Size Open Collar Rare Date 1835 Capped Bust Dime1833 Capped Bust Dime 10 Cents Ngc Fair 21835 10c Capped Bust Dime1835 Capped Bust Silver Dime *free Shipping* *hucky* Circulated 1834 Philadelphia Mint Silver Capped Bust Dime Free Shipping1827 Capped Bust Dime - .10c - 90% Silver Coin - Rare Coin 1835 Capped Bust Dime1820 Capped Bust Dime 10c Better Date! Filler1832 Bust Dime - Damaged1835 Bust DimeUs Bust Dime 1833 Lotsep23751835 10c Capped Bust Dime. **1835 Dime ****1836 Dime **1829 H10c Capped Bust Half Dime Nice F-vf 1834 Capped Bust Dime1827 10c Capped Bust Dime1831 Capped Bust Dime *free Shipping After First Item*Us Bust Dime 1831 Lotsep2227C6814- 1835 Capped Bust Dime Pcgs Vf Details Rainbow TonedUs Bust Dime 1829 Square Base 2 Lotsep2228Us Bust Dime 1820 Lotsep2110Us Bust Dime 1827 Lotsep22301835 Capped Bust Dime*. Full Liberty. No Shipping.1835 Bust Dime Full Liberty No Reserve