Liberty Seated Dimes (1837-1891)
The dime has been struck with few interruptions from the beginning of U.S. coinage to the present day. These were sanctioned originally in the Coinage Act of 1792, and these small Silver coins were the 10-cent piece from their inception until now.
Seated Dime Design
The dime was struck for circulation first a few years after its smaller sibling the half dime and was based on the same planchet. Early dimes were struck from 89.24% Silver and 10.76% Copper, an alloy that was slightly modified for future releases like the Liberty Seated. The alloy was changed at that point to 90% Silver, a percentage it would retain until the demise of most U.S. Silver coinage in 1964.
The Liberty Seated series had a picture of Liberty sitting on a rock, holding a Liberty pole with a Phrygian cap on the top (this symbol of freedom can be seen prominently in Capped Bust coins). The reverse had a wreath of laurel leaves through 1860. However, on larger coins such as the quarter, half dollar and dollar, the design had an eagle. After 1860 the wreath was expanded to include other plants.
The seated dime saw a number of small variations over the course of its minting, including different number sizes, changes to the drapery around Liberty, number and size of stars, and more. One variety of note is the arrow by the date, which indicated a slight change in the size of the coin to bring the intrinsic value of the metal more in line with the face value. This change occurred from 1853 to 1855 and from 1873 to 1874. After a couple of years they were changed back to the variant they had been before the arrows were implemented, as this was only a temporary measure to get people used to the changed coinage. The Liberty Seated dime survived through the Civil War, though many hoarded coins during this time period.
The Liberty Seated dime stayed in production till 1891, but changes in public approval and a push towards more interesting coinage led to the redesign of all U.S. coinage that could be touched, including the dime. This created the Barber series.
Early U.S. coins were not the only coins that post-colonial America had. French, Spanish and English coins circulated freely and were accepted as legal tender, and the mintage of new U.S. money did not stop these from circulating. The dime circulated but competed against these coins, particularly the early Bust dimes. These were important because they were among the first U.S. coins minted, but in terms of day-to-day living at the time of their mintage their impact was muted.
The Coinage Act of 1857 occurred while the Liberty Seated dime was being minted, and at the same time as this change, mintage for the dime expanded immensely. Businesses which had previously accepted any form of money as legal tender now would only accept U.S. coins, and that drove demand far exceeding that of previous years. That set the stage for our current monetary system.
Liberty Seated dimes are available for a reasonable price in many years in low grades, but the price rises rapidly for higher grades. There are some very expensive and rare examples from branch mints, including the 1872 and the 1873 Carson City. But due to its size or length the entire series is riddled with valuable dates – too many to mention.
The higher populations of series like the Liberty Seated as opposed to earlier dimes make them a much easier prospect for intermediate collectors. Early examples of U.S. coinage including the dime are not easy to get one’s hands on.
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