Liberty Seated Dimes (1837-1891)
The Liberty seated dime was introduced in 1837, and was made continuously until 1891. Like the seated half-dime, quarter, and half dollar, it was a workhorse coin that saw widespread circulation. The seated dime was produced at four different mints: Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Carson City, Nevada. Production was not consistent from one year to the next; a given mint would occasionally skip production for a year or even a series of years. Only the mint at Philadelphia produced the coin in every year.
American artist Thomas Sully produced the original sketch of Liberty used for the obverse design. Sully’s sketch was rendered into a coin design by engraver Christian Gobrecht.
There are several main types of seated dime, with a few design modifications made over time. Coins made in 1837 and part of 1838 featured an obverse without stars; during 1838 a border of thirteen stars was added to the obverse. This type with stars added was made until 1859, with other, subtle changes made during those years. In 1853, a pair of arrowheads was added to the left and right of the date, indicating a very slight reduction in weight. These arrowheads were removed after 1855, although the reduced weight standard remained. The coin saw an extensive redesign in 1860, with the most obvious change being the relocation of “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” from the reverse to the obverse. These later modifications to the coin’s design were by James B. Longacre and Anthony C. Paquet. Arrowheads to left and right of the date were again added in 1873, this time to indicate a slight increase in weight. These remained through 1874, but were removed in 1875. The increased weight standard remained for the duration of the series.
Mintmarks, when present, are found on the reverse: within the wreath (1838-1859), below the wreath (1860-1874), within the wreath again (1875 only), and once again below the wreath (late 1875-1891).
The seated dime series features a number of truly scarce, rare and elusive dates, and is an enormously challenging set for a collector to complete. Philadelphia mint issues of the period 1863-1867 are rare, along with the Carson City issues of the early 1870s, and some San Francisco issues of the mid-1880s. Circulated examples of many dates, aside from these, are readily available and generally inexpensive. Uncirculated and proof examples can be expensive, depending on the usual factor of condition.