One Dime Coins

The dime is a coin worth ten cents, or one tenth of a United States dollar. The dime is the smallest in diameter and the thinnest of all U.S. coins currently minted for circulation. The 32nd President Franklin D. Roosevelt is featured on the obverse of the current design, while a torch, oak branch, and olive branch covering the motto E pluribus unum are featured on the reverse. Nowhere on the dime is the actual value in cents or dollars stated; the coin is labeled only as "one dime."

Mintage of the dime was commissioned by the Coinage Act of 1792, and production began in 1796. A feminine head representing Liberty was used on the front of the coin, and an eagle was used on the back. The front and back of the dime used these motifs for three different designs through 1837. From 1837 to 1891, "Seated Liberty" dimes were issued, which featured Liberty seated next to a shield. In 1892, a feminine head of Liberty returned to the dime, and it was known as a "Barber dime" (named for coin designer Charles E. Barber). The backs of both of the latter two designs featured the words "ONE DIME" enclosed in various wreaths. In 1916, the head of a winged-capped Liberty was put on the dime and is commonly known by the misnomer of "Mercury dime"; the back featured a fasces. The most recent design change was in 1946.

The composition and diameter of the dime have changed throughout its mintage. Initially the dime was 0.75 inches (19 millimeters) wide, but it was changed to its present size of 0.705 inches (17.91 millimeters) in 1828. The composition (initially 89.24 percent silver and 10.76 percent copper) remained constant until 1837, when it was altered to 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper. Dimes with this composition were minted until 1966, although those minted in 1965 and 1966 bear the date 1964. Beginning in 1965, dimes also began to be minted with a clad composition of cupronickel; this composition is still in use today.

The term dime comes from the French word disme (modern French spelling dîme), meaning "tithe" or "tenth part," from the Latin decima [pars]. This term appeared on early pattern coins, but was not used on any dimes until 1837

List of designs

  • Draped Bust 1796–1807
  • Capped Bust 1809–1837
  • Seated Liberty 1837–1891
  • Barber 1892–1916
  • Winged Liberty Head (Mercury) 1916–1945
  • Roosevelt 1946–present

Obverse: Bust of Lady Liberty
Reverse: A bald eagle

The first dime to be circulated was the Draped Bust dime, in 1796. It featured the same obverse and reverse as all other circulating coins of the time, the so-called Draped Bust/Small Eagle design. This design was the work of then-Chief Engraver Robert Scot. The portrait of Liberty on the obverse was based on a Gilbert Stuart drawing of prominent Philadelphia socialite Ann Willing Bingham, wife of noted American statesman William Bingham. The reverse design is of a small Bald Eagle surrounded by palm and olive branches, and perched on a cloud.

Obverse: Lady Liberty
Reverse: A bald eagle

The Draped Bust design was succeeded by the Capped Bust, designed by Mint Assistant Engraver John Reich. Both the obverse and reverse were changed extensively. Although the model used for the portrait of Liberty on the obverse has never been named, Mint writer William Ewing DuBois claimed that the model was "Reich's fat German mistress." The new reverse featured a Bald Eagle grasping three arrows (symbolizing strength) and an olive branch (symbolizing peace). Covering the eagle's breast is a U.S. shield with six horizontal lines and 13 vertical stripes. Also on the reverse is the lettering "10C," making it the only dime minted with an explicit indication of its value.

Obverse: Lady Liberty seated holding the Union Shield
Reverse: ONE DIME

The obverse features an image of Liberty sitting on a rock, wearing a dress and holding a staff with a liberty cap on top. Her right hand is balancing a shield with the inscription "LIBERTY." The reverse featured the inscription "ONE DIME," surrounded by a wreath. All Seated Liberty dimes contain 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper, and are 17.9 millimeters (0.705 inch) in diameter. This size and metal composition would continue until 1965, when silver was permanently removed from circulating dimes.

Obverse: Lady Liberty
Reverse: ONE DIME

The Barber dime, as with all previous dimes, featured an image of Liberty on the obverse. She is wearing a Phrygian cap, a laurel wreath with a ribbon, and a headband with the inscription "LIBERTY." This inscription is one of the key elements used in determining the condition of Barber dimes. Liberty's portrait was inspired by two sources—French coins and medals of the period, as well as ancient Greek and Roman sculpture. The obverse also contains the long-used 13 stars (for the 13 colonies) design element. The reverse contained a wreath and inscription almost identical to the one used on the final design of the Seated Liberty dime.

Obverse: a depiction of Liberty wearing a Phrygian cap
Reverse: a fasces (a battle ax surrounded by a bundle of staffs)

Although most commonly referred to as the Mercury dime, the coin does not depict the Roman messenger god, nor does it contain any mercury. The obverse figure is a depiction of Liberty wearing a Phrygian cap, a classic symbol of liberty and freedom, with its wings intended to symbolize freedom of thought. Designed by noted sculptor Adolph A. Weinman, the Winged Liberty Head dime is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful U.S. coin designs ever produced. The composition (90 percent silver, 10 percent copper) and diameter (17.9 millimeters) of the Mercury dime was unchanged from the Barber dime.

Obverse: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Reverse: a fasces (a battle ax surrounded by a bundle of staffs)

In 1946, the U.S. memorialized President Franklin Delano Roosevelt by creating a Dime in his honor, a design that has remained until today. 1964 was the last year in which 90% silver Dimes were produced...thereafter, Dimes were made of a "clad" composition consisting of alloys of Copper and Nickel over a pure copper center.