Capped Bust Dimes

Dimes were not produced in 1808, but production resumed in 1809, with a new design known as the Capped Bust Dime. A similar design had first been introduced in 1807 on the half dollar and was slowly placed on the other denominations, one at the time. The design would be struck in two different varieties, from 1809 to 1828 with large dentils and a wide border, and from 1828 to 1837 with smaller dentils, among other minor design modifications. This was the result of more modern machinery at the Mint, which was introduced shortly before the modifications were made.

The first dimes, or ten-cent pieces, had been struck in 1796, two years after the first silver coins were produced by the US Mint in Philadelphia. Mintages in the late 18th and early 19th century were small but growing, and by 1807, the largest annual mintage up to that point had been produced at 165,000 pieces. No dimes would be struck in 1808, but production of the denomination resumed in 1809. The previous Draped Bust design was replaced by the so-called Capped Bust design by John Reich, a German immigrant who had been hired as assistant engraver to Robert Scot.

The obverse design of the Capped Bust Dime featured a bust of Liberty, facing left. She is wearing a cap, usually mentioned in literature as a Phrygian or Freedom Cap, a symbol used in the Revolutionary War and dating back to the ancient Greece. The symbol had become popular again in France in the 18th century and would continue to be featured on coins of the United States well into the 19th century. The inscription LIBERTY is seen on a headband which is placed on the cap. Thirteen stars, representing the original thirteen states in the Union are seen, arranged seven left and six right. The date, slightly curved as usual, is seen under the truncation of the bust which features a small part of Liberty’s dress.

The reverse featured the same design as used in common on the larger denominations throughout the 19th century. An American Eagle is seen, with its wings spread and a large shield at its breast. The eagle holds a bundle of arrows and an olive branch in its claws. On a scroll, placed above the eagle’s head is the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM. Starting at the left of the eagle’s right wingtip is UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, which ends to the right of the other wingtip. Finally, the denomination, as 10 C. is seen at the base, representing the first time the denomination was inscribed on the ten cent piece.

This design would essentially remain the same until 1837, although major modifications took place in 1828. William Kneass, who had been the successor of Scot and joined the Mint’s team in 1805, modified the design after modern machinery had been installed at the Mint. The size of the dime was slightly reduced, some minor modifications to the design were employed, and the dentils were decreased in size. As a result, the Capped Bust Dimes of the second variety are more standardized, usually of higher quality, and were struck in larger quantities. This modified design would be struck for ten years, until replaced by the Seated Liberty design by Christian Gobrecht, which would be seen on this denomination for most of the remaining years of the 19th century.