Return to NGC Coin Explorer Search

Seated Liberty Dimes (1837-1891)

No Stars Obverse (1837-38)

The decade of the 1830s was shaped by Andrew Jackson’s stormy presidency. The former frontier general and hero of the War of 1812 enjoyed a special place in the public’s heart in an era when military heroes were national celebrities, not unlike movie or sports stars of today. Jackson viewed himself as the champion of ordinary people and democracy, but he governed with an iron will and presided over radical changes in the way government worked.

His wild and woolly monetary policies, curbing the extensive use of paper money, surely helped to bring on the banking Panic of 1837. Under his administration however, the United States grew from adolescence to adulthood, setting a course that by 1849 expanded the country’s borders to the Pacific Ocean. By the end of the “Jacksonian Era” in 1837, the United States was ready for a change in coinage design that reflected its new power and prestige.

One of Jackson’s appointees was Mint Director Robert Maskell Patterson. Patterson’s idea for a new design reflected the country’s imperial mood. He had long admired the seated figure of Britannia found on English coins, and he directed Chief Engraver William Kneass to sketch an image of the goddess Liberty using a similar motif. Kneass prepared a rough sketch but suffered a stroke shortly thereafter, so further sketches were done by artists Thomas Sully and Titian Peale.

With Kneass ill, Patterson offered part-time Mint employee Christian Gobrecht a permanent position as second engraver and ordered Gobrecht to prepare dies based on Sully’s drawing. The resulting design, which first appeared on the silver dollars of 1836, was hailed for more than the exquisite art that it was. To many, it symbolized the empire building the United States was embarking upon; an imitation of the “mother land,” but tempered with democratic ideals.

The design depicts Liberty seated on a rock holding the Union Shield. The shield bears a scroll with her name. The design unmistakably borrows from the English motif, except for the substitution of the Liberty cap for a trident. As executed on the new 1837 dime (and half dime, as well), the seated Liberty figure rests within clear, uncluttered fields. The reverse shows the words ONE DIME within a wreath, encircled by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. (This was the first time that the word “dime” appears on a U.S. coin. The Capped Bust design that preceded the Seated Liberty used the designation “10C.”).

From its earliest days the Mint’s goal was to create a method for creating a consistent coinage that would deter counterfeiting and assure quality control. This goal was largely reached with the Seated Liberty coinage. On the small scale of the dime and half-dime, the obverse design, sans the 13 stars, required that only the date be punched into the working die. This was accomplished in one blow with a punch containing all four digits. The reverse design was truly a technological milestone. For the first time a working die was sunk without any design elements having to be added by hand (with the exception of the mintmark for pieces to be coined at New Orleans). Along with the close collar technology introduced on the Capped Bust dime, the uniformity within this and subsequent issues greatly discouraged counterfeiting.

The first of the 1837 No Stars Seated Liberty dimes were approximately 30 proofs that were distributed by Director Patterson as presentation pieces (only about 20 pieces are known to exist today). Proofs can be identified by a very apparent raised spur, a die defect, which is above the first T in STATES on the reverse of the coin. There is also a faint die scratch through ES in STATES passing to the O in OF. Proofs were struck more than once, enhancing the above defects. This die was used to mint regular issues also, but the single strike makes the spur less apparent, and the die scratch is not visible.

The regular 1837 issue numbered 682,500 pieces and includes Large and Small Date varieties. It usually comes well struck, with only occasional weakness in the lines in the shield. Many coins were saved as first-year-of-issue souvenirs, and gem pieces are frequently seen.

Because of the lack of accurate records, the New Orleans issue of 1838 has an uncertain mintage, but it is estimated that between 406,000 and 490,000 pieces were made. Mintmarks on this issue were punched under the word DIME. 1838-O dimes come softly struck, especially at the head of Liberty and in the central parts of the design. In addition, the New Orleans coins saw immediate and heavy use. Mint State pieces are rare.

Collectors appreciate this coin for the stunning visual appeal created by the blank fields highlighting the central design, giving the coin a “cameo” appearance. More popularly collected by design type, few collectors try to collect the entire fifty-four year Seated Liberty dime series because of the large number of coins needed and the difficulty in locating and affording the many rare dates and varieties. Type collectors seek the No Stars variety along with the four other major types: 1838-60 With Stars, 1853-55 Arrows, 1860-91 Legend Obverse and 1873-74 Arrows. These five design types are affordable and relatively easy to find in any grade through MS-64.

Distinguishing between mint state and circulated dimes of the No Stars type is not too challenging. The obverse design’s high-points for wear are the knee, breast and head area. On the reverse, check the bow knot and the edges of the leaves.

Controversy has always been part of our national life, and soon after this coin type was released a discussion followed as to why the traditional thirteen stars, representing the original states, were missing. In 1838 the new Seated Liberty quarter was issued with stars encircling the figure of Liberty, and plans called for similar treatment of the half dollar and dollar. Although the No Stars motif on the dime and half dime was aesthetically very pleasing, the Mint’s penchant for uniformity of design among coins of the same metal dictated the use of the stars on the smaller coins, and they were added beginning with the Philadelphia issue of 1838.

Stars Obverse (1838-1860)

By 1838, “Hard Times” had descended upon the nation. Thousands of people quite literally didn’t know where their next meal was coming from. The deep economic depression brought on by over-speculation and a collapse in real estate prices almost halved the price of cotton and forced every New England textile mill to close, with one exception: Nathaniel Stevens’ mill in North Andover, Massachusetts. It not only remained open but expanded its production, taking up the slack for all the others. Workers there got above average wages of $4.50 per week plus $2 for board—for a 76-hour workweek.

Ten cents was a significant sum of money, nearly two hours’ pay at the Stevens mill. Thus, the American public took very careful note of the new ten-cent piece just showing up in its pocket change at the time: the Seated Liberty dime. Actually, the coin had made its first appearance in 1837, the year before. But in 1838 the United States Mint made a fundamental change in its design, adding thirteen stars along the obverse border encircling the central portrait of Liberty. Those stars would remain in place until 1860, and the “Stars Obverse” dimes would come to be regarded as a major, distinct component of the Seated Liberty series.

Very few coins of any denomination were jingling in most Americans’ pocket change in 1838; the depression had led to hoarding of federal coinage, and so-called Hard Times tokens were being widely used as a money substitute. When coins did appear, however, the likelihood was high that they would include Seated Liberty pieces—for during the late 1830s the new design was introduced not only on the dime but also on all four other silver coins then being issued: the half dime, quarter dollar, half dollar and dollar.

The Seated Liberty portrait resulted from the teamwork of two highly talented men: portraitist Thomas Sully, who designed it, and Mint engraver Christian Gobrecht, who executed dies from the artwork. It depicts a seated figure of Liberty with her right hand resting upon a shield and her left hand grasping a pole topped by a Liberty cap—symbols of preparedness and freedom. On the quarter and half dollar, the Mint retained essentially the same reverse as the one that had appeared on their immediate predecessors from the Capped Bust series: a naturalistic eagle with a shield superimposed upon its breast. On the half dime and dime, however, the eagle gave way to a simple statement of value. On the dime, the inscription ONE DIME appeared within a wreath, and that in turn was encircled by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

In 1838 some dimes came with small stars, others with large stars. Slightly more than 406,000 dimes were struck that year at the newly opened New Orleans branch mint; these lacked stars on the obverse. Otherwise, all dimes of that date were struck in Philadelphia and have the stars.

From late-1840 onward Seated Liberty dimes displayed a fold of drapery at the crook of Liberty’s elbow—the result of modifications by sculptor Robert Ball Hughes. This was intended in part to give the portrait greater “respectability” (a theme that would emerge again 75 years later, when Liberty’s bare breast on the Standing Liberty quarter led to hasty revisions to head off scandal). For 1840, dimes bearing the additional drapery were coined in relatively small numbers. Besides adding the drapery in 1840, the Mint also adjusted Liberty’s shield to an upright position.

The California Gold Rush of the mid-19th century had an almost immediate impact on U.S. coinage: By adding so much gold to existing supplies, it depressed the market value of that metal in relationship to silver, and that in turn led to widespread hoarding and melting of silver coins. These were soon worth more as metal than as money. To restore proper balance between the two metals and thereby halt the hoarding, the Mint reduced the weight of its silver coins. The change took place in 1853 and was signified on the dime by the placement of two arrowheads at either side of the date.

By 1856 the public had become acclimated to the silver coins’ new weight, so the Mint removed the arrows. The 1856 dimes came in two varieties, with large and small dates, but both are quite common. The 1853-55 dimes with arrows also are relatively common, but the 1853 dime without arrows has a mintage of only 95,000 and is one of the scarcer Stars Obverse dimes. Other scarce issues include 1846, 1856-S, 1858-S and 1859-S. Branch-mint examples were struck at both New Orleans and San Francisco, and their “O” or “S” mintmarks can be found on the reverse, above the bow of the wreath.

Although the entire Stars Obverse dime production from 1838 to 1853 and again from 1856 through 1860 totaled over 51 million pieces, mintages varied widely, from a low of 31,300 in 1846 to over 5.7 million in 1856. Proofs were made for public sale in 1858 and 1859 but also are known for earlier dates. Included is an 1841 dime that lacks drapery (this was unintentional, as excessive die-polishing removed it almost completely).

In 1860, the Mint removed the stars from the dime, replacing them with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA along the obverse border. To fill the void left on the reverse by this motto’s departure, the old wreath was replaced with a larger one. Patterns were struck in 1859 with the old obverse (having stars along the border) and the new reverse. These “transitional” pieces are quite rare and noteworthy in that they lack any mention of the nation’s identity.

The San Francisco Mint struck 140,000 Seated Liberty dimes with stars in 1860, ringing down the curtain on this interesting sub-series. Otherwise, all Seated Liberty dimes from 1860 onward, right to the end of the series in 1891, have UNITED STATES OF AMERICA on the obverse. In 1892, the Barber dime made its debut, along with its companion quarter and half dollar.

Seated Liberty dimes with the Stars Obverse exist in substantial numbers in grade levels up to Mint State-64. The supply thins out considerably in MS-65 and drops sharply in levels of MS-66 and above. Points to check for wear include Liberty’s breast and knee and the tips of the leaves on the wreath.

A complete set of Stars Obverse dimes consists of nearly three dozen pieces and, while that is not excessively long, this group is collected most often by type, rather than by date and mint. It is, after all, just one part of the complete Seated Liberty dime series, and the series as a whole spanned more than half a century.

With Arrows (1853-55)

All that glitters isn’t gold—sometimes it’s silver. This twist on the age-old maxim was to plague U.S. coinage from its very beginnings. The ever-fluctuating prices of silver and gold, coupled with Congress’ misguided coinage law and the Mint’s internal problems, constantly frustrated efforts to keep an adequate supply of precious metal coins in circulation. This problem would last for years.

The bi-metallic standard instituted by the Coinage Act of 1792 defined the content of the standard gold dollar at 24.75 grains and the silver dollar at 371.25 grains. In 1792, this 15-to-1 ratio between the metals was in line with the world market. Within a few years, however, the world price of gold began to rise. The United States’ largest gold coin, the ten-dollar eagle, was hoarded and melted as fast as it was minted. U.S. silver dollars, containing slightly more silver than the circulating legal-tender Spanish dollars, also saw melting and exportation, and even the fractional silver coins were affected. The situation got so bad that by 1804 President Thomas Jefferson ordered a halt to both eagle and dollar production.

For at least a decade, except for half eagles and half dollars, which were primarily used in bank-to-bank transactions, mintages of all U.S. precious metal coins were minuscule. From about 1800 to 1834, gold coins were rarely seen in circulation at all, and only Spanish silver pieces and fractional banknotes saw any appreciable use. By 1820 98% of the U.S. gold coin mintage had been destroyed. Fifteen years would pass before gold coins circulated again.

In 1834, apparently to appease eastern banking and southern mining interests, Congress reduced the amount of gold in the standard dollar to 23.2 grains and changed the ratio to 16-to-1. With the prevailing worldwide ratio at that time of around 15.6 to 1, this had the effect of returning gold coins to circulation, as they were now worth marginally less than the equivalent amount of U.S. silver coins. The higher value silver coins should have gone into the melting pot, but a combination of factors, including vast imports of silver from Mexican mines and the return to circulation of U.S. silver coins that were formerly used as bank reserves, forestalled the inevitable for a decade. By 1844, though, U.S. exports of silver exceeded imports, and silver coins once again started to disappear. A few years later, things would really begin to get out of hand.

Following the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848, thousands of fortune-seekers swarmed to California, transforming it almost overnight from a sleepy U.S. territory, newly wrested from Mexico, into the nation’s 31st state. The “Forty-Niners,” and others who followed them, mined enormous quantities of gold, more gold than the world had ever seen up until that time. The output of the mines was just too much for the markets to easily absorb: Gold’s price relative to silver began to fall, and then, melting and hoarding of silver coins took on really massive proportions. By 1853 it took $1.06 in U.S. gold coins to buy $1.00 in silver coins. U.S. silver coins practically vanished from circulation, leaving behind only an assortment of well-worn Spanish pieces and the tiny trimes (silver three-cent pieces), which had a metal content well below their face value.

Congress was ultimately forced to address the problem. Extended debate ensued, mostly over the issue of debasing the coinage. Although gold coins were effectively debased in 1834, many legislators ignored this fact, as they vehemently protested lowering the amount of silver in the fractional coinage. Finally, a compromise was struck. This was the Act of February 21, 1853, whereby the amount of silver in the fractional coins was reduced by 6.9%, but the old standard was retained for the silver dollar as a sign of Congress’ continued allegiance to bimetallism.

The half dollar, quarter dollar, dime and half dime were affected by this change. To facilitate the withdrawal from circulation of the heavier, pre-1853 silver coins, a readily distinguishable change was needed; but to maintain confidence in the nation’s money, it was thought necessary to retain the design of the coins then familiar to the public.

Since 1838 the motif used on U.S. silver coins was the Seated Liberty design by Christian Gobrecht. It depicted Liberty, modeled after the British image of Britannia, seated on a rock surrounded by thirteen stars. On the dime, the reverse featured a wreath, with the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA outside and the denomination ONE DIME inside. Officials decided to add arrowheads on either side of the date to identify the new, lower weight coins. Mint Director George N. Eckert instructed Chief Engraver James B. Longacre to modify the dies.

The first Arrows dimes were proofs, part of five sets made of the new coinage. Regular production began in April of 1853, and the coins literally poured out of the mints. Out of a total of close to 21.5 million pieces minted from 1853 to 1855, Philadelphia made over 12 million in 1853 alone. Congress’ plan evidently worked. For the first time in U.S. history there was an adequate supply of federal silver coins for commerce. For the most part foreign silver coins were quickly withdrawn from circulation and recoined into U.S. issues. While many of the first dimes of this type were initially hoarded, their appearance in vast numbers soon convinced the hoarders to release their stockpiles.

The three year series contains five date-and-mint combinations, as Arrows dimes were minted every year in Philadelphia (no mintmark) and in New Orleans (O) in 1853 and ‘54. Mintmarks can be found above the bow of the wreath. The 1853 Philadelphia issue appears with the most frequency in Gem Uncirculated condition, while the New Orleans issue of that year is the rarest of the series, particularly in Mint State. The 1854-O also appears occasionally in high grade; a small hoard of about 18 pieces turned up in 1981. In addition to the first 1853 coins, an unknown but apparently tiny number of proofs were also struck in 1854 and ‘55.

While all five issues are collected by date and mint, the main interest in this short series is from type collectors pursuing one of the five major varieties of Seated Liberty dimes. When grading this design, wear will first show on Liberty’s knee, breast and head. On the reverse, check the highpoints of the bow and leaves.

In 1856 Mint Director Eckert’s replacement, James Ross Snowden, directed that the arrows be removed from the coinage, as very little of the old tenor pieces remained in circulation. Seated Liberty dimes continued to be struck at the Philadelphia and New Orleans Mints, as well as at the newly built San Francisco Mint, until 1892, when the design type was replaced by Charles E. Barber’s Liberty Head.

Legend Obverse (1860-91)

By 1860 the average American citizen was becoming increasingly aware of the small change in his pockets. At long last there were plenty of coins to use in daily transactions. Less than a decade earlier silver coins barely circulated at all, because their melt value exceeded their face value. Congress ultimately resolved that problem in 1853 by reducing the precious metal content of the nation’s coinage. A few years later, with the end of large cent production and the release of millions of the new small copper-nickel cents, coin collecting began to grab a foothold, and even more people took note of the coins going through their hands.

This was also a time when small change represented considerable purchasing power: Americans averaged a ten hour working day, and the expression “a dollar a day” was quite apropos. In New York City, for instance, a salesman just starting out to sell A. Blower’s patent Waterproof Composition (a compound for use on shoes and boots) could expect to make about ten cents an hour. That dime might buy a ladies Shetland wool corset, a child’s ticket to see General Tom Thumb on Broadway or maybe a half-dozen good cigars. Interestingly enough, in 1860 the appearance of the now familiar dime would undergo a change, courtesy of the U. S. Mint.

The addition of stars to Christian Gobrecht’s uncluttered Seated Liberty dime in 1838 had an unwanted side-effect: The design would not strike up completely. It was thought that this was caused by die opposition—raised portions of the design opposite one another on each side of the coin. In the case of the Stars Obverse design, the reverse legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA was opposite the thirteen stars spread around the rim on the obverse. To remedy the situation, in 1860 Chief Engraver James Longacre switched the legend to the obverse and added the “Wreath of Cereals” to the reverse. This wreath was the work of Assistant Engraver Anthony C. Paquet, and it was adapted from the pattern half dollars of 1859. The wreath was composed of leaves of corn, wheat, maple and oak, and it would remain in use on dimes, essentially unchanged, until 1916. Unfortunately, Longacre’s design change made little improvement in striking quality, even after he made further minor modifications in late 1860.

Over 175 million of the Legend Obverse Seated Liberty dimes were produced from 1860 through 1891 at four mints: Philadelphia (no mintmark), New Orleans (O), Carson City (CC) and San Francisco (S). The series is punctuated by the With Arrows issues of 1873-74, a two year design change that used arrowheads on either side of the date to indicate a slight increase in weight. The Philadelphia Mint struck Legend Obverse dimes continuously from 1860 through 1891, while the branch in San Francisco saw production each year except 1860. Carson City struck this type between 1871 and 1878, and New Orleans would only see production in two years, the first and last of the design. Mintmarks are located on the reverse beneath the bow in the wreath, except in 1875, when they are also found within the wreath.

While the series has many “common” dates, it includes a number of very scarce issues. Although there are no standout rarities from the Philadelphia Mint, the coins struck from 1863 through 1869 are especially elusive and quite rare in mint condition. The short-lived Carson City run includes rare early dates and common later ones, but it embraces one of the greatest rarities in all of U.S. numismatics, the 1873-CC Without Arrows. While 12,399 examples of this issue are recorded to have been struck, only one coin is known today. For many years it was included in the collection of Louis Eliasberg, Sr., until those coins were sold at auction in 1996-97. Another important rarity is the low mintage 1860-O, also extremely rare in uncirculated condition. While some San Francisco issues after 1875 number among the most common in the series, the dates before 1872 are quite scarce.

The Philadelphia Mint struck one “transitional” issue dated 1859, the so-called “coin without a country.” These coins retain the previous Stars Obverse design but are mulled with the Cereal Wreath reverse as adopted in 1860. The coins lack any mention of the issuing authority, and all are very rare, with an estimated twelve pieces surviving. Struck by order of Mint Director James Ross Snowden and made only as proofs, these were used by Snowden as “trade bait,” enticing local collectors to part with rarities they owned that were lacking in the Mint’s collection.

Legend Obverse dimes are one of the most popular 19th century U.S. coins and are available in a wide range of grades. Because of their smaller size they usually have fewer abrasions than larger denomination coins. When grading this design, friction from circulation first begins to show on the head, breast and knee of Liberty; on the reverse, check the highest portions of the wreath and bow knot. Counterfeits are generally not a problem in the series, but mintmarks are known to have been removed from certain dates and added to others.

This design is generally collected either by date and mint in lower grades or by type, in which case only one business strike or proof of any date is needed. In addition, a few specialists collect the series by die variety. For the type collector, this series poses no difficulty. Many of the commoner issues are often available in grades above MS-65. Small hoards of many dates have come to light over the years, including some of the Philadelphia issues of the Civil War period. The availability of mint state specimens was again augmented in January, 1985, when two original rolls of Legend Obverse dimes were dispersed. The coins were dated 1883 and 1884, and most were brilliant gems, with a number of pieces that graded higher than MS-65.

With a total of 24,903 pieces made for the series, proofs are readily available and have often been used in collections when high grade business strikes could not be obtained. They are occasionally available with heavy mint frost on the devices and deeply mirrored fields. These “cameo” coins are very popular with type collectors.

Legend Obverse dimes from the later years—1882 through 1891—are more available than other Seated Liberty coins of this era. As representatives of the design type in general, they span a period of American history that begins prior to the beginning of the Civil War and ends one year after the western frontier officially closed. By the end of the 1880s most people had known no other coins except the Seated Liberty issues. Many called for a new design. In 1892, the long-lasting Seated Liberty motif was finally replaced with the new portrait of Liberty by Mint Chief Engraver Charles Barber.

With Arrows (1873-74)

After three years of postponements, innumerable revisions and committee conferences, the Mint Act of 1873 was finally passed on February 12, 1873. This same Mint Act was to be referred to in later years as the “Crime of ‘73”, because it was alleged to have been passed by a sleepy Congress with no debate and little consideration. At the time, neither the general public nor Congress realized just what the new law’s impact would have on the nation’s coinage. One of its consequences was to abolish the “standard dollar” (as opposed to the trade dollar) as well as the two-cent piece, silver three-cent piece and silver half dime. It also increased the weight by an infinitesimal amount in the silver dime, quarter dollar and half dollar. And it is this tiny increase in weight that created a distinctly different type on the ten-cent pieces in the years 1873-74.

Placing arrowheads on either side of the date was previously used on half dimes, dimes, quarters and halves in 1853, ‘54 and ‘55. At that time they also signified a change in weight, but a decrease. The weight of these circulating coins was decreased to discourage their widespread hoarding and melting, as their intrinsic value was greater than their face value. One might speculate that the opposite could be true as well and could be the reason for adding more silver to these denominations twenty years later. The actual reason is not so logical, however.

Two of the legislators responsible for the Mint Act of 1873 were Senator John Sherman and Representative William Kelley. These two men had a vision that someday United States coinage would be accepted worldwide. This universal coinage system would see the U.S. dime, quarter and half dollar accepted throughout the civilized world and used as circulating bullion pieces (the stella or four-dollar gold piece was a later offshoot of this universal coinage system, as promoted in 1879-80).

Sherman and Kelley reasoned that the only obstacle standing in the way of realizing their dream was to convert U.S. silver coinage from the archaic English system of weight to the more rational metric system. To that end, a provision was included in the Mint Act that added a miniscule amount of weight to the dime, quarter and half dollar. Formerly, the dime weighed 2.49 grams; after the Mint Act, the dime weighed 2.5 grams. A minute adjustment by anyone’s reckoning, but one that would increase the weight just enough to make ten dimes, four quarters or two halves weigh exactly 25 grams, which was also the weight of a French 5-franc piece.

The Mint decided to note the increase in weight by adding arrowheads on the obverse at either side of the date. Chief Engraver William Barber added the arrowheads to the previous Hughes-Gobrecht-Longacre design. The arrows were punched into the dies separately, and their positioning varies from one die pair to another. However, regardless of whether they were punched in higher or lower relative to the date, dimes of 1873 always have the arrow-points level, while they point upward on 1874 coins.

Once the new design was released, officials began scrupulously melting down coins dated 1873 that did not have the arrows motif. In the process, one of the most famous of all 19th century rarities was created, the 1873-CC No Arrows dime. It is a unique coin, the only piece known to survive the melting pot.

Adding the mintages together for the six issues of Arrows dimes yields 6,042,308 coins. Most of the Philadelphia and San Francisco issues are readily available, and they are quite popular in all grades as type coins. Only the Carson City pieces are truly rare in any condition. Both Carson City issues are difficult to locate problem-free, with most of the surviving population being corroded, damaged or impaired in some manner.

A total of 1,500 proof Arrows dimes were made in the two years. They are highly collectible coins and are eagerly sought by type collectors. Though 800 proofs were coined for 1873, the 1874 edition, with its lower mintage of 700 pieces, is more often seen.

Counterfeits have never been a particular problem in this short-lived series. The only well-known counterfeits are of the very rare 1874-CC. These pieces are easily detectable by most collectors and dealers, as the die characteristics are well known for this rare, high-profile date. An interesting fact for authentication purposes is that early Carson City dimes have only 89 reeds on the edge, while their Philadelphia counterparts have 113, making it impossible to manufacture a convincing counterfeit Carson City dime from a Philadelphia coin simply by adding the mintmark.

Grading Arrows dimes is similar to the grading of other dimes of this type minted 1860-91. High points to show signs of wear first are the breast and knees of Liberty and, on the reverse, the ribbon bow and tips of the leaves.

After 1874 the arrows on either side of the date were discontinued, even though the weight of the coins in subsequent years remained the same. The silver dime retained its new weight, as did the quarter and half dollar, and all three denominations remained on the metric system until silver coinage was terminated in 1964.

And what became of Senator Sherman and Representative Kelley’s dream of a universal coinage system? Sherman later proposed to remove the eagle from the reverse of coins so their silver content could be inserted in place of the bird. He actually believed that adoption of the metric system for coinage would lead to Europeans using our coins as currency. His dreams, however, wilted soon enough in the bright light of reality. The facts were that the value of minor coinage was independent of its actual weight in bullion. Such small denomination coins only circulated in countries where they could be exchanged for what is known as “standard money,” that is, currency—silver dollars and gold coins.

One of the great ironies of Sherman’s and Kelley’s vision of a universal coinage system is that coins and currency were still not legally convertible in this country in 1873, ten years after specie payments had been suspended during the dark days of the Civil War. But their dream, and the conversion of dimes to the metric system, did leave an enduring numismatic legacy for collectors of 19th century United States coinage.

Coins in Category

1837 SEATED 10C MS 1838 O 10C MS 1838 LARGE STARS 10C MS 1838 PARTIAL DRAPERY 10C MS 1838 SMALL STARS DDR 10C MS 1839 10C MS 1839 O 10C MS 1840 NO DRAPERY 10C MS 1840 O NO DRAPERY 10C MS 1840 DRAPERY 10C MS 1841 10C MS 1841 O 10C MS 1842 10C MS 1842 O 10C MS 1843 10C MS 1843 O 10C MS 1844 10C MS 1845 10C MS 1845 O 10C MS 1846 10C MS 1847 10C MS 1848 10C MS 1849 10C MS 1849 O 10C MS 1850 10C MS 1850 O 10C MS 1851 10C MS 1851 O 10C MS 1852 10C MS 1852 O 10C MS 1853 NO ARROWS 10C MS 1856 10C MS 1856 LARGE DATE 10C MS 1856 SMALL DATE 10C MS 1856 O 10C MS 1856 S 10C MS 1857 10C MS 1857 O 10C MS 1858 10C MS 1858 O 10C MS 1858 S 10C MS 1859 10C MS 1859 O 10C MS 1859 S 10C MS 1860 S 10C MS 1853 ARROWS 10C MS 1853 O ARROWS 10C MS 1854 ARROWS 10C MS 1854 O ARROWS 10C MS 1855 ARROWS 10C MS 1860 10C MS 1860 O 10C MS 1861 10C MS 1861 S 10C MS 1862 10C MS 1862 S 10C MS 1863 10C MS 1863 S 10C MS 1864 10C MS 1864 S 10C MS 1865 10C MS 1865 S 10C MS 1866 10C MS 1866 S 10C MS 1867 10C MS 1867 S 10C MS 1868 10C MS 1868 S 10C MS 1869 10C MS 1869 S 10C MS 1870 10C MS 1870 S 10C MS 1871 10C MS 1871 CC 10C MS 1871 S 10C MS 1872 10C MS 1872 CC 10C MS 1872 S 10C MS 1873 CL 3 NO ARROWS 10C MS 1873 OP 3 NO ARROWS 10C MS 1875 10C MS 1875 CC 10C MS 1875 CC BELOW BOW 10C MS 1875 CC ABOVE BOW 10C MS 1875 S 10C MS 1875 S BELOW BOW 10C MS 1875 S ABOVE BOW 10C MS 1876 10C MS 1876 CC 10C MS 1876 S 10C MS 1877 10C MS 1877 CC 10C MS 1877 S 10C MS 1878 10C MS 1878 CC 10C MS 1879 10C MS 1880 10C MS 1881 10C MS 1882 10C MS 1883 10C MS 1884 10C MS 1884 S 10C MS 1885 10C MS 1885 S 10C MS 1886 10C MS 1886 S 10C MS 1887 10C MS 1887 S 10C MS 1888 10C MS 1888 S 10C MS 1889 10C MS 1889 S 10C MS 1890 10C MS 1890 S 10C MS 1891 10C MS 1891 O 10C MS 1891 S 10C MS 1873 ARROWS 10C MS 1873 CC ARROWS 10C MS 1873 S ARROWS 10C MS 1874 ARROWS 10C MS 1874 CC ARROWS 10C MS 1874 S ARROWS 10C MS

NGC Auction Central Disclaimer