After a relatively short run of eight years, in 1809 the Draped Liberty dime gave way to a new design known as the Capped Bust dime. It featured a bust of Lady Liberty wearing a cloth Phrygian cap on its face and an eagle with an outstretched head clasping arrows and an olive branch on its reverse. Liberty’s cap in held in place by a ribbon inscribed “Liberty” and her hair flows from under the cap to her draped shoulders. Designed by Mint Assistant Engraver John Reich, the theme is similar to half dollars designed by him in 1807.
The Only True “10”
Liberty’s bust faces left and is surrounded by 13 stars—seven on the left and six on the right—with the date below the bust. Both sides have beading known as dentils around their circumference. The eagle on the reverse has a shield with 13 stars on its chest, the motto E Pluribus Unum on a ribbon above its head below the inscription United States of America, and unique to this issue of the dime, the denomination, 10 c., at the bottom. The previous dime had no indication of value, and subsequent coins were marked “One Dime.”
Large Dimes: 1809-1827
The original Capped Bust dimes were struck on a blank coin planchet with a diameter of 18.8 mm. They contained the same 89% silver/11% copper content as the earlier coins, a ratio that would remain until it was increased to 90% silver in 1837. Production of dimes varied year-to-year based on demand, with some years skipped entirely up until 1827.
Improved Dies Result in Smaller Coin: 1828-1837
In 1828, Mint Chief Engraver William Kneass introduced a new die design with a close collar around the rim. This contained the planchet, keeping it from spreading under pressure. This allowed for a thicker coin that was slightly smaller (17.9 mm) while maintaining the same silver content. To accommodate the smaller size, the dentils and stars were reduced slightly along with some slight style changes. These are known as the Small Dimes and are the same size as today’s coins.
Rarities and Values
There are 123 known varieties of Capped Bust dimes, most involving slight variations in the size of letters and numbers that don’t have a large effect on value. The Large Dimes are easy to find in Very Fine and lower grades, and higher grades are not rare until you get to Uncirculated or higher. Coins graded MS60 and up can bring several thousand dollars, with an MS67 1814 “Small Date” Large Dime bringing $46,000 at a recent auction.
Several high-graded Small Dime Capped Bust coins have sold for over $30,000. Heavily circulated samples are available for $100 or less for some dates.
Capped Bust dimes’ values have increased recently, and the PCGS grading service estimates that the rarest coins in top condition could bring well over $100,000 if they reach the market.
Next Up: Liberty Seated Dimes, 1837-1891