Liberty Seated Dime, Obverse Legend, 1860-1891
Filed Under: US Type Coins
Photos used with permission and courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries
The 13 stars added to the obverse of the dime in 1838 satisfied the interests of those who missed the John Reich/ William Kneass stars from the earlier Capped Bust style; but those stars were considered the reason for the incomplete strikes common to the type. The stars were opposite raised portions of the reverse design (including the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA legend), thus two higher relief areas of the coin were competing for metal as it flowed into the die recesses during minting. To address this issue, Chief Engraver James B. Longacre removed the stars from the obverse, replacing them with the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA inscription from the reverse. A more full-bodied cereal wreath replaced the existing reverse legend and the smaller wreath. The idea for the wreath has been attributed to a suggestion by numismatist Harold P. Newlin to Mint Director James Ross Snowden, and the wreath is sometimes called “Newlin’s Wreath of Cereals”. But, because portions of the raised wreath are opposite the now obverse legend, striking quality did not improve significantly, though Longacre made additional minor changes in attempts to improve the striking impression.
Dimes produced during this period include a legendary numismatic rarity, the 1873-CC Without Arrows, represented by a single specimen. A minor change in the weight of dimes required by the Mint Act of February 12, 1873, resulted in a distinct type-within-a-type, identified by the addition of an arrowhead on either side of the date on dimes minted in 1873 and 1874. Though over 12,000 1873-CC dimes with no arrows were minted, most were apparently destroyed after passage of the Act. Some scholars speculate that the lone survivor was retrieved from a 1874 Assay Commission meeting by Mint Superintendent Archibald Loudon Snowden; the coin provenance has been traced from Snowden to famed collector Louis Eliasberg, Sr. (sold from that collection in the late 1990s). Another unusual coin in the series is an 1859 pattern dime that has the obverse stars design paired with Longacre’s cereal wreath; thus, United States of American does not appear anywhere on the coin. These coins, estimated at 12 survivors, all in proof, are called transitional pieces, not made for circulation though likely produced by Snowden for trade with collectors to fill gaps in the Mint’s collection. In 1875 the arrows were removed from the obverse but Seated dimes produced thereafter continued to be produced at the revised slightly higher weight.
On the obverse a full-length representation of Liberty wears long, flowing robes and is seated on a rock, head turned back to her right. Her left arm is bent and holds a pole topped by a Liberty cap. The right arm extends down at her side, hand supporting a Union shield across which is a slightly curved banner displaying LIBERTY. The date is at the bottom, below the rock upon which Liberty rests. Forming a partial circle at the top, inside dentils along the raised rim, are UNITED STATES on the left side, and OF AMERICA on the right. On the reverse a wreath of two branches of corn, wheat, maple leaves, and oak leaves forms a concentric circle inside a ring of dentils next to the rim, the two branches tied by a ribbon at the bottom. The denomination ONE DIME is in the center, each word on a separate line. Seated Obverse Legend dimes were minted at Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Carson City; O, S, and CC mintmarks are located below the knot of the ribbon bow inside the rim; or, on some 1875 San Francisco and Carson City pieces, above the bow below DIME.
Several hundred circulation strike Seated, Obverse Legend dimes are listed in census/ population reports, including a very few prooflike pieces, though fewer from the early 1860s through early 1870s. Prices are moderate for many pre-1873 pieces through MS63, expensive as MS64 and finer. Coins issued from 1860 through 1867 are generally expensive finer than MS60. Those minted from 1875 through the end of the series are modestly priced up to MS64, expensive as MS67 and finer. The unique 1873-CC Without Arrows dime would, if sold, likely bring in excess of one-and-a-half million dollars. Other higher priced dimes of the type are 1871-CC, 1872-CC, and 1885-S. Proofs are moderately priced to MS64, expensive as Gem and finer, with Cameo and Deep Cameo examples at a slightly higher premium. Prices for proof Seated, Obverse Legend dimes are uniform across all dates, and a few hundred examples for each date have been certified.
Designer: James B. Longacre, engraved by Anthony C. Paquet (cereal wreath), after Robert Ball Hughes/ Christian Gobrecht, from a Titian Peale/ Thomas Sully design
Circulation Mintage: high 15,310,000 (1891), low 6,000 (1867)
Proof Mintage: high 1,355 (1880), low 460 (1863)
Denomination: Ten cents (10/100)
Diameter: 17.9 mm; reeded edge
Metal Content: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: 2.49 grams (2.5 grams 1873-1874 Arrows at Date)
Varieties: Many known including 1872 Doubled-Die Reverse; 1873 Close 3 and Open 3 (referring to the amount of space between the end knobs of the 3 digit); 1875-S and 1875-CC, mintmarks Above and Below Bow; 1890-S, Large S and Small S; 1910-O, O Over Horizontal O; and other minor die variations.
Coin Encyclopedia: www.ngccoin.com
The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. R.S Yeoman (author), Kenneth Bressett (editor). Whitman Publishing.
A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
United States Coinage: A Study by Type. Ron Guth and Jeff Garrett. Whitman Publishing.
The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Don Taxay. Arco Publishing
Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Walter Breen. Doubleday.
Last Updated : 02/27/2009
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About the Author
Tim Shuck is a life-long Midwestern resident, and started collecting coins after finding an Indian Head cent on the ground at his childhood farm home. Additional encouragement came from looking through a collection of well-worn late 19th and early 20th century coins kept by his grandfather in an old leather coin purse. Current collecting interests include U.S. types from the Civil War era through the early 1930's, and Colonial and Early American coins.