The U.S. Dime was authorized by the Coinage Act of 1792 and took its name from the French word Disme which is pronounced Dime. Only a very small number of silver Dimes were struck displaying the term Disme and, while the coins never circulated, a few 1792 Silver Dismes are known today. Copper Dismes were also minted at the time, and both the silver and copper coins were nothing more than pattern pieces.
Four years later, the United States Mint started producing the first Early Dimes for circulation. The Dime was actually first issued the same year as the Quarter Dollar and became one of the last ever denominations produced in America. It was decided that the coins would not display the previously used French-style spelling and, instead, feature the word Dime.
When the U.S. Dime made its debut in 1796, it featured the famous Draped Bust, Small Eagle design and was changed to the Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle design in 1798. Beginning in 1809, a new Capped Bust Dime was introduced and became the first Dime to display its own value. The Capped Bust Dime was designed by John Reich and minted until 1837.
The first Early Dime to enter circulation was the Draped Bust, Small Eagle Dime, released in 1796. It was designed by chief engraver, Robert Scot and was given the same obverse and reverse as the other coins already in circulation.
On the obverse is a right-facing portrait of Liberty with flowing hair tied by a ribbon. She appears to be smiling and her neckline is covered with drapery. There are thirteen, fifteen or sixteen stars situated around Liberty, with LIBERTY above and the mintage year below. On the reverse is a small eagle with outstretched wings, and perched upon clouds. The bird is surrounded by palm and olive branches, as well as the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
As the stars featured on the obverse surrounding Liberty represent the states that were in the Union at the time, an additional star was added when Tennessee was admitted. All Early Dimes dated 1796 have only fifteen stars, whereas some of the 1797 Dimes have sixteen. The other 1797 Draped Bust Dimes display only thirteen stars to symbolize the original states.
Less than 47,500 pieces were struck from 1796 to 1797, and all Draped Bust, Small Eagle Dimes are composed of 90% silver and 10% copper.
By 1798, Early Dimes had a different reverse; however, the obverse remained the same as the Draped Bust, Small Eagles Dimes. A design change took place because most people disliked the small and rather scrawny looking eagle on the Dime’s reverse. To silence the critics, Robert Scot replaced the small eagle with a scaled-down version of the Great Seal of the United States.
On the reverse of the Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Dime is a heraldic eagle with the Union Shield on its breast and a ribbon inscribed E PLURIBUS UNUM in its beak. The bird is holding an olive branch in one talon and a cluster of arrows in the other. Clouds and stars are featured above the eagle’s head, and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA encircles the entire image.
The Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Dime was struck from 1798 to 1807, with the exception of 1799 and 1806. There are many varieties in the series, such as overdates, thirteen and sixteen-star reverses and differently sized mintage year punches. In addition to these varieties, some of the coins will show five berries on the olive branch in the eagle’s talons, while others will show only four. Other varieties that have not been mentioned here also exist and can be found in several publications.
In 1809, Early Dimes were given another makeover, which led to the creation of the Capped Bust Dime series. German-born assistant engraver, John Reich was responsible for giving the Dime its new and improved look.
The obverse features a left-facing bust of Liberty wearing a Phrygian cap and a headband inscribed LIBERTY. She is surrounded by thirteen stars, with seven to the left and six to the right. Below the bust is the date. On the reverse of the Capped Bust Dime is an American eagle with its wings spread and the Union Shield on its breast. The bird is holding a bundle of arrows and an olive branch in its talons, with a scroll engraved E PLURIBUS UNUM above the eagle’s head. Encircling the eagle is UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and the 10 C denomination is shown below.
Interestingly, the Capped Bust Dime represents the first time the denomination was included on a Dime coin. It’s also important to mention that Capped Bust Dimes struck from 1809 to 1828 are known as the “Large Diameter” type. These Early Dimes have a diameter of 18.8 millimeters and are slightly broader with a lower-looking rim. Then there are also the “Small Diameter” Capped Bust Dimes, which have reeded edges and a diameter of 18.5 millimeters. These small type coins were minted between 1828 and 1837.
Whether you’re interested in the Draped Bust, Small Eagle, the Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle or the Capped Bust design, or all three, you can always rely on Capital Gold Group to provide you with Early Dimes. All Early Dime issues have significantly climbed in value over the years because each series is very rare and includes minor or major design variations. The early Bust Dimes are particularly rare and command a significant premium, even in heavily worn condition.
Since all early Dimes were struck at the Philadelphia Mint, there are no mintmarks displayed on any of the coins. We should also point out that no Early Dimes were minted in 1808, meaning there was a one year gap between the end of the Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Dime and the beginning of the Capped Bust Dime.
If you would like to find out more about Early Dimes or want to purchase any of the pieces we’ve spoken about on this page, please don’t hesitate to call our knowledgeable experts. Alternatively, you can send us a message via email or by using the online form on our Contact page.