Draped Bust Dime

Posted by on February 26, 2012

Coin Weight (g) Composition Silver Melt Value Full Melt Value
First Silver (1792) 2.7 89% silver, 10% copper

Coin Weight (g) Composition Silver Melt Value Full Melt Value
Draped (1796-1798, 1800-1805, 1807) 2.7 89% silver, 10% copper
1796 Draped Bust Dime small eagle reverse

1796 Draped Bust Dime small eagle reverse

The Draped Bust Dime silver coin series was struck from 1796 thru 1807 skipping 1799 and 1806, producing 422,010 silver coins.  These are the first dimes minted by the United States even though the first coin struck with President George Washington’s approval was the Half Disme (dime) in 1792.  The Drape Bust Dime is 89.24% silver and 10.76% copper, weighing 2.70 grams and a diameter of 19.0 millimeters with a reeded edge.  There is no denomination indicated on these coins.


The Draped Bust Dime obverse design based on a portrait of Liberty done by Gilbert Stuart which Robert Scot first adapted for the 1795 silver dollar.  This Liberty bust with flowing hair tied loosely if a bow faces right.  The date is directly underneath her at the rim. On both the left and the right of Liberty following the curve of the rim are stars, either 13, 15, or 16.  “LIBERTY” separates the two strings of stars centered and arching along the rim directly above Liberty.

As with the other coins during this time a first and second reverse were made: the ‘small’ eagle and then the ‘heraldic’ eagle.  The first, ‘small eagle’, was used in 1796 with 15 stars (there are six minor variations not listed of the 22,135 struck) and 1797 (25,261 struck) and has an eagle on a cloud in the center surrounded by a wreath and then the wreath is surrounded by the legend; “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” following the rim.

1798 Draped Bust Dime heraldic reverse

1798 Draped Bust Dime heraldic reverse

The second reverse, the ‘heraldic’ eagle used from 1798 thru 1807, has the eagle with spread wings with the ‘National Shield’ over its chest, clutching arrows in the left talon and an olive branch in the right, with a ribbon in its beak inscribed “E PLUBERUS UNIM” motto. Thirteen stars are in the field above the eagle and arcing clouds above them.  “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” encircles this design around the rim.

There are a number of variation because of differences in the Draped Bust Dime dies on either the obverse in 1797 and 1798 (27,550 struck), then of the reverse in 1804 (8,265 struck) and 1805 (120,780 struck).

1) 1797 obverse with 16 stars, representing the current number of states.

2) 1797 obverse with 13 stars to symbolize the original states, an aesthetic choice to keep the coins from becoming cluttered.

3) 1798 as an overdate strike of the 1797 (1798/97) with 16 stars.

1798/97 w/13 stars Draped Bust Dime obverse

1798/97 w/13 stars Draped Bust Dime obverse

4) 1798 as an overdate strike of the 1797 (1798/97) with 13 stars.

5) 1798 with a large “8” in the date.

6) 1798 with a small “8” in the date.

7) 1804 reverse with the standard 13 stars over the eagle.

8) 1804 reverse with 14 stars over the eagle.

9)1805 reverse with ‘5 Berries’.

10)1805 reverse with ‘4 Berries’.

There are at least eight other minor variation from 1798 to 1807 not covered here.  There are no Proof strikes for the Draped Bust Dime.  The key date for this series is 1804 and especially the “14 Stars Reverse”.  There are at several Mint State 1796 known of, from a hoard sold off in 1936 but in general anything above Very Fine is rare for this series.  There are sometimes signs of adjustment marks made on the planchets and week strikes are more numerous from 1798 thru 1807.

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One Response to Draped Bust Dime

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