History of the US Dime

The United States dime, a small coin that has been in circulation since the inception of the nation’s monetary system, is a fascinating piece of history. The dime has played an integral role in the economic life of Americans for centuries, symbolizing both progress and stability. In this article, we delve into the history of the US dime, from its origins to its contemporary significance. We will explore who invented the dime, its various designs throughout history, why the 1964 dime is rare, the reasons for its small size, and the lady featured on the coin’s face. Let’s embark on this historical journey together.

Who invented the dime?

The history of the US dime dates back to the late 18th century when the Founding Fathers laid the groundwork for the nation’s monetary system. In 1792, the Coinage Act was enacted by Congress, establishing the United States Mint and the basic framework for the country’s coinage. The legislation also specified the creation of a ten-cent coin, which later became known as the dime.

The man behind the dime’s inception was Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers and the first Secretary of the Treasury. His extensive involvement in shaping the US monetary system and his vision for a stable currency led to the establishment of the dime. The first dimes were struck in 1796, featuring a design that depicted Lady Liberty on the obverse and an eagle on the reverse. Since then, the dime has undergone several design changes, but its core value and significance have remained unchanged.

Old dime list

Throughout its history, the US Dime has seen various designs reflecting the values and aesthetics of the time. Below is a list of the most notable dimes:

Draped Bust (1796-1807): 

The first dime design features a portrait of Lady Liberty with flowing hair and draped clothing. The reverse depicted a small eagle.

Capped Bust (1809-1837): 

This design introduced a more refined portrait of Lady Liberty, wearing a “liberty cap” and a shield on her chest. The reverse showcased an eagle with a shield.

Seated Liberty (1837-1891):

Lady Liberty was depicted seated on a rock, holding a shield and a staff topped with a liberty cap. The reverse featured an eagle with a shield and a banner.

Barber Dime (1892-1916): 

Designed by Charles E. Barber, this dime featured a more stoic portrait of Lady Liberty wearing a Phrygian cap. The reverse maintained the eagle motif, albeit with a new design.

Mercury Dime (1916-1945): 

Designed by Adolph A. Weinman, this iconic dime depicted Lady Liberty wearing a winged cap, symbolizing the freedom of thought. The reverse featured a fasces, symbolizing unity and strength.

Roosevelt Dime (1946-present): 

The current dime design, introduced in honor of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose New Deal policies helped the nation recover from the Great Depression. The reverse showcases a torch, an olive branch, and an oak branch, representing liberty, peace, and strength.

Why is the 1964 dime rare?

Collectors highly seek after the 1964 dime due to its rarity and the unique circumstances surrounding its production. During this time, the US Mint transitioned from using 90% silver to a copper-nickel-clad composition for dimes. The rising price of silver made the older coins more valuable for their metal content than their face value. As a result, many 1964 dimes were hoarded by the public, leading to a scarcity of these coins in circulation.

Additionally, the 1964 dime has a few unique varieties that make them even more collectible. One such variety is the “doubled die” obverse, in which the coin’s design elements, such as the date and the inscriptions, appear to be doubled due to a minting error. Another variety is the “proof” 1964 dime, specially minted for collectors with a mirror-like finish and sharp details.

Furthermore, the 1964 dime marked the end of an era for American coinage. It was the last year that dimes were struck in a 90% silver composition, making them the final mintage of a long-standing tradition in American coinage. This historical significance adds to the collectability and desirability of the 1964 dime.

Why is the dime so small?

The size of the dime can be traced back to its origin in the late 18th century when the United States established its monetary system. Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, played a crucial role in developing a decimal-based currency that was easy to understand and use. His proposal for the ten-cent coin was that it should be small and lightweight to facilitate easy handling and circulation.

The coin’s silver content also influenced the size of the dime. Historically, the value of a coin was directly related to the value of the metal used in its production. In the case of the dime, it contained a smaller amount of silver compared to larger denomination coins, such as the quarter and the half dollar. Consequently, it was minted smaller to reflect its relative value.

Additionally, the small size of the dime made it more convenient for everyday transactions. It could be easily carried in a purse or pocket, allowing quick and efficient exchanges. The dime’s small size and practicality have made it a staple of American currency for over two centuries.

Who is the lady on the dime?

The lady featured on the US dime represents Lady Liberty, an iconic symbol of freedom and democracy. Lady Liberty has been depicted on various US coins since the inception of the nation’s currency system. Her appearance on the dime has evolved, reflecting changing artistic styles and cultural values.

The first dime, the Draped Bust, portrayed Lady Liberty with flowing hair and draped clothing. The Capped Bust and Seated Liberty designs presented a more refined and stately version of Lady Liberty. Finally, the iconic Mercury Dime, designed by Adolph A. Weinman, depicted her wearing a winged cap, symbolizing her freedom of thought. Many people mistakenly believe that the figure on the Mercury Dime is the Roman messenger god Mercury; however, it represents Lady Liberty.

The current Roosevelt Dime, introduced in 1946, does not feature Lady Liberty but rather a portrait of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Nonetheless, Lady Liberty remains an enduring symbol of American values and ideals, and her various portrayals on the Dime continue to resonate with collectors and historians alike.


The history of the US dime is a fascinating journey through time, highlighting the evolution of American coinage and the values that have shaped the nation. From its inception by Alexander Hamilton to the various designs that have graced its face, the dime remains a small yet significant part of American history. It’s rarities, such as the 1964 dime, and its practical size ensure that this humble coin will continue to be treasured by collectors and appreciated by the public for years.

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