A Parade of Dimes

The dime is the smallest US coin in size. It is the smallest in terms of diameter at 17.91 mm and the thinnest at 1.35 mm. Formerly know as a “tenth”, it was first suggested by Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury in 1791. The dime was initially defined as a silver coin which “shall be, in weight and value, one tenth of a silver unit or dollar”.

The Coinage Act which was passed in 1792 issued the “disme” which was one-tenth the value of the silver dollar. Dismes were minted the same year but it was never released to the public. Some of them were copper coins but because of the low demand for the coin and problems at the US Mint, production was stopped for a time. The early dimes were called Busts because they were busts of famous people.

Draped Bust
This was the very first dime which was issued to the public in 1796. The designs by Robert Scot were similar to the coins that were being circulated at the time. The obverse featured the profile of socialite and wife of Statesman William Birmingham, Ann William Bingham. The reverse is of the Bald Eagle with olive branches and a palm and perched on a cloud. There was no indication of the value of the dime. Also called the Heraldic Eagle, it continued to be minted until 1807.

Capped Bust
The Capped Bust followed the Draped Bust and was officially circulated in 1809. Designed by John Reich, the obverse now showed the profile of Lady Liberty and the reverse showed the Bald Eagle grasping three arrows and an olive branch. This time, the denomination was printed on the reverse with the 10C symbol. The Capped Busts made in 1828 was of the large type, making them broad and thick. The same year, a new production of smaller Capped Bust dimes was made.

Seated Liberty
Based on the coinage of the United Kingdom, the new dime featured the figure of the Seated Liberty which was reminiscent of the Britannia. The first Seated Liberty dimes that came out had no stars on the obverse but the later dates were minted with stars on the coin’s borders. The 13 stars represented the original colonies and were added to the dime officially in 1838. The laurel on the reverse was changed to a wreath of wheat, maple, corn and oak leaves.

Barber Dimes
The Barber was designed by Charles Barber and was similar to the design of the half dollar and the quarter. Several calls had been made to design the new coin such as artists collaborating on the design but their financial demands were too much. A public contest also proved futile so the Chief Engraver of the US Mint was given the task to design the dime. It showed the profile of Lady Liberty with the inscription “LIBERTY” and the reverse featured a laurel wreath with the word “ONE DIME” in the middle.

Officially, this was the Winged Liberty Head dime and it does not actually show the messenger of the gods on its face. It is Liberty wearing a Phrygian cap which was the symbol of freedom. The obverse featured fasces with olive branches wrapped around it symbolizing a desire for peace in times of war. It was composed of 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper. A beautiful piece of coin, this is one of the valuable coins in the dime series. The Barber dimes were minted from 1916 to 1945.


This is the present dime being circulated today. Ralph Daughton of Virginia recommended the issuance of a coin to show the profile of President Roosevelt for his efforts to help with polio research and help victims of the disease. John Sinnock designed this dime and the first Roosevelt dime was circulated to the public in January 30, 1946 (Roosevelt’s birthday). The reverse of the coin shows the images of a torch, an oak branch and an olive branch.

Sinnock’s initial was placed below Roosevelt’s image and people speculate that it is the initials of Joseph Stalin and communism paranoia swept the media. It was later explained to the public that is was the designer John Sinnock’s initials.