Guide to U.S. Capped Bust Dimes

The Capped Bust Dime was introduced in 1809 and struck until 1837 amidst a few gaps in production. A similar design had been previously introduced on the half dollar and eventually the same basic design would be used across all other gold and silver denominations during this era of American coinage. On the dime, the design occurs in two different subtypes. For the first portion of the series, the coins have large dentils and a wide border, while for the final portion of the series, the coins have a beaded border and other minor modifications. The changes were the result of the Mint adopting more modern machinery and production practices.

The first dimes had been struck in 1796, two years after the first silver coins were produced by the United States Mint. The delay was due to the higher demand for other silver denominations. The smaller half dime was needed for everyday commerce, and the larger half dollar and silver dollar had been favored by silver depositors. These factors kept the mintage levels of the dime at lower levels during the final years of the 18th century and initial years of the 19th century. There were no dimes struck in 1808, and production would resume the following year bearing the Capped Bust design. The design had been created by John Reich, a German immigrant hired as assistant engraver to Robert Scot.

The obverse of the coin features the bust of Liberty, facing left. She is wearing a cap with a band inscribed LIBERTY. The cap is usually mentioned in literature as a Phrygian or Freedom Cap, which dates back to ancient Greece and was a popular symbol during the American Revolutionary War. The fields contain thirteen stars, arranged seven to the left and six to the right, representing the original states of the Union. The date is placed under the truncation of the bust, which includes a small part of Liberty’s gown secured by a brooch.

On the reverse, an eagle appears at center with its wings spread and a large shield at its breast. The eagle holds three arrows and an olive branch within its claws. A scroll placed above the eagle contains the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM. Extending from the eagle’s left wingtip to its right wingtip is the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The inscription “10 C.” appears below representing the first time the face value was indicated on the denomination.

Minor modifications to the design would be made in 1828 by William Kneass, the second Chief Engraver of the Mint. Following the installation of modern machinery, coins were struck using the close collar method which applied reeding as the coins were struck. The diameter of the coins was reduced slightly and the borders used small beads rather than the larger dentils. The new method of production resulted in more standardized diameter and higher quality strikes.