Dime (U.S. coin)

From Academic Kids

A dime is a coin issued by the United States Mint with a denomination of one-tenth of a United States dollar, or ten cents.

Dime (United States)
Value: 0.10 U.S. dollars
Mass: 2.268 g
Diameter: 17.91 mm
Thickness: 1.35 mm
Edge: 118 reeds
Composition: 91.67% Cu, 8.33% Ni
Missing image
U.S. dime obverse

Design: Franklin Roosevelt
Designer: John R. Sinnock
Design Date: 1946
Missing image
U.S. dime reverse

Design: torch, oak branch,
olive branch
Designer: John R. Sinnock
Design Date: 1946

In colloquial language, the word dime usually refers only to the ten-cent coin rather than to the quantity of money; one would not normally call two separate five-cent coins taken together a "dime". The word is not merely colloquial, but also official, and appears on the coin itself. The coins in the United States and Canada are similar to each other, and are physically the smallest coins currently produced by either country.


General history

While now made of sandwich-like clad layers of cupro-nickel (an alloy of 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel) and copper, dimes were originally made of 89.24 percent silver and 10.76 percent copper, the expense of which required the coins to be very small in order to prevent their intrinsic value being worth more than face value.

The dime is the only current U.S. circulating coin whose design contains no reference to "cent" or "dollar". This omission, along with the fact that it is smaller than both the U.S. one-cent and five-cent pieces, often leads to confusion among those unfamiliar with U.S. money. Bearing in mind that the name of the coin comes from the French dixième, meaning "one-tenth" (of a dollar), can help people remember its value. The original spelling on U.S. coinage was "disme," but the "s" was dropped in the 1800s.

Dimes are important to the history of coins in that they were the first coins minted as part of the decimal system pioneered by the U.S. monetary system.

Early dimes (1796-1837)

The Draped Bust/Small Eagle design, minted in 1796 and 1797, was the work of then-Chief Engraver Robert Scot. The portait of Liberty was based on a Gilbert Stuart drawing of prominent Philadelphia socialite Ann Willing Bingham. All 1796 dimes have 15 stars, while 1797 dimes have either 16 stars (reflecting Tennessee's admission as the 16th state) or 13 stars (for the 13 original states, after the Mint deemed it impractical to continue the practise of adding a new star for each new state).

In 1798, the Heraldic Eagle reverse made its debut. The obverse continued from the previous series, but the eagle on the reverse was changed from the widely criticized "scrawny" hatchling to a scaled-down version of the Great Seal of the United States. Also the work of Robert Scot, this design continued through 1807, though no dimes dated 1799 or 1806 were made.

The Draped Bust design was succeeded by John Reich's Capped Bust, which ran from 1809 to 1828 in the large size and from 1828 to 1837 in the small size. Both obverse and reverse were changed extensively. The Capped Bust design bears the unique distinction of being the only dime ever minted by the United States to bear an explicit indication of its value, with the lettering "10C" appearing on the reverse below the eagle. It also began the longstanding (though not unbroken; notable exceptions include the Barber dime, quarter, and half-dollar as well as the Lincoln cent) U.S. tradition of the obverse portrait facing to the left. Improvements in the striking process allowed the diameter to be reduced (and the thickness correspondingly increased) from approximately 18.8 millimeters to 18.5 millimeters in 1828, though the weight and purity were left unchanged.

Seated Liberty dimes (1837-1891)

Christian Gobrecht designed this dime, whose obverse design, as was the tradition of the time, graced every circulating silver U.S. coin of the period. The most significant non-design change from the previous series was a reduction in diameter to 17.9 millimeters, a size that has continued to the present day, and a change in composition from .8924 fine silver (the balance made up in copper) to .900 fine silver. This was accompanied by a decrease in mass from 2.70 grams to 2.67 grams to maintain consistent silver content. Arrows at the date in 1853 and 1873 indicated changes in the coin's mass, initially from 2.67 grams to 2.49 grams to combat rising silver prices, then to 2.50 grams to make the dime one-tenth the mass of a French 5-franc piece. This latter alteration was brought about by the Mint Act of 1873, which, in an attempt to make U.S. coinage the currency of the world, added a small amount of mass to the dime, quarter, and half-dollar in order to bring their weights in line with fractions of the French 5-franc piece. See also [1] (http://www.coinsite.com/CoinSite-PF/PParticles/10carr73.htm).

There were several minor variants during the period. The initial design had no stars on the obverse. Thirteen stars (symbolizing the 13 original states) were added to the perimeter of the obverse in 1838. These were replaced with the legend "United States of America" in mid-1860. At the same time, the laurel wreath on the reverse was changed to a wreath of corn, wheat, maple, and oak leaves and expanded nearly to the rim of the coin, since the legend had been moved to the obverse. This design continued through the end of the series in 1891 and was changed only slightly by Barber in 1892.

Barber dimes (1892-1916)

The Barber dime is so named for its designer, Charles E. Barber, who was Chief Engraver of the Mint at the design's inception. The design was shared with the quarter and half-dollar of the same period. Extensive internal politics surrounded the awarding of the design, which had initially been opened to the public. A four-member committee appointed by then-Mint Director James Kimball, which included Barber himself, accorded only two of more than 300 submissions an honorable mention. Kimball's successor, Edward O. Leech, decided to dispense with the committees and public design competitions and simply instructed Barber to develop a new design. It has been speculated (http://www.coinsite.com/CoinSite-PF/PParticles/10cbarbr.htm) that this is what Barber had intended all along.

"Mercury" dimes (1916-1945)

So-called "Mercury" dimes contain no mercury, nor do they depict the Roman messenger god. Adolph A. Weinman, the designer and a noted sculptor who had studied under Augustus Saint-Gaudens, stated that the obverse figure is a depiction of Liberty wearing a winged cap, symbolizing freedom of thought. It is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful designs ever to grace a United States coin. The reverse design, a fasces juxtaposed with an olive branch, was intended to symbolize authority, preparedness, and peace.

The composition of the coin is standard for fractional currency of the time, .900 silver and .100 copper. The fasces was a symbol of Roman magistracy and eventually, imperialism. The "Mercury," or more appropriately, "Liberty Head" (the official designation) dime was the last regular issue of U.S. coinage to portray an allegorical obverse design (a phenomenon which from the earliest government issues had been pervasive). It is interesting to note that the fasces was the symbol of fascist Italy, and that movement's name was a derivation of the Roman symbol of power.

The 1916-D issue of only 264,000 coins is one of the most sought after (and expensive) in American numismatics (its rarity due largely to the fact that the overwhelming majority of the dimes struck at Denver in 1916 carried the pre-existing Barber design). Many coins in this series exhibit striking defects, most notably the fact that the line separating the two horizontal bands in the center of the fasces is often missing, in whole or in part; the 1945 issue of the Philadelphia mint hardly ever appears with this line complete from left to right, and as a result, such coins are extremely valuable.

No dimes at all bear the dates of 1922, 1932, or 1933, and the next rarest date after 1916-D is 1921.

Roosevelt dimes (1946-present)

The modern dime bears Roosevelt's image partly in commemoration of his efforts for the March of Dimes campaign to fight polio from which Roosevelt suffered. [2] (http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2003-12-05-reagan-dime_x.htm) John R. Sinnock, the designer and then-Chief Engraver of the Mint, placed his initials, JS, at the base of Roosevelt's neck. Controversy immediately ensued as anti-Communist hysteria led to the circulation of rumors that the "JS" stood for Josef Stalin. The Mint quickly issued a statement refuting this. The reverse design of a torch, olive branch, and oak branch is intended to symbolize liberty, peace, and strength and independence.

As with the quarter and half-dollar, 1964 was the last year of traditional .900 fine silver coinage. Beginning in 1965, the dime assumed its current composition, a "sandwich" of copper between two layers of an alloy of 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel. This composition was selected because it gave similar mass (now 2.27 grams) and electrical properties (important in vending machines), and most importantly, because it contained no precious metal.

Soon after the change of composition, silver dimes (and quarters and half dollars) began to disappear from circulation, as people receiving them in change hoarded them. Although now very rare, silver dimes are still occasionally encountered in change. Their relative thinness and the growing population of people who have no idea of the reason for their unique appearance allow a small but dwindling supply of the coins to remain in circulation.

United States currency and coinage
Topics: Federal Reserve note | United States Notes | United States coinage | United States dollar
Currency: $1 | $2 | $5 | $10 | $20 | $50 | $100 | Larger denominations
Coinage: Cent | Nickel | Dime | Quarter | Half-dollar | Dollar

Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Art)
    • Architecture (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Architecture)
    • Cultures (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Cultures)
    • Music (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Music)
    • Musical Instruments (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/List_of_musical_instruments)
  • Biographies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Biographies)
  • Clipart (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Clipart)
  • Geography (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Geography)
    • Countries of the World (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Countries)
    • Maps (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Maps)
    • Flags (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Flags)
    • Continents (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Continents)
  • History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History)
    • Ancient Civilizations (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Ancient_Civilizations)
    • Industrial Revolution (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Industrial_Revolution)
    • Middle Ages (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Middle_Ages)
    • Prehistory (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Prehistory)
    • Renaissance (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Renaissance)
    • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
    • United States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/United_States)
    • Wars (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Wars)
    • World History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History_of_the_world)
  • Human Body (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Human_Body)
  • Mathematics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Mathematics)
  • Reference (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Reference)
  • Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Science)
    • Animals (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Animals)
    • Aviation (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Aviation)
    • Dinosaurs (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Dinosaurs)
    • Earth (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Earth)
    • Inventions (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Inventions)
    • Physical Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Physical_Science)
    • Plants (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Plants)
    • Scientists (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Scientists)
  • Social Studies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Social_Studies)
    • Anthropology (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Anthropology)
    • Economics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Economics)
    • Government (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Government)
    • Religion (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Religion)
    • Holidays (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Holidays)
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Solar_System)
    • Planets (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Planets)
  • Sports (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Sports)
  • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
  • Weather (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Weather)
  • US States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/US_States)


  • Home Page (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php)
  • Contact Us (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Contactus)

  • Clip Art (http://classroomclipart.com)
Personal tools