From everyday transactions to rare coin collections, dimes have been part of American life for centuries. Known for its compact size, the dime, equivalent to 10 cents, has an interesting story behind its design. This article explores the history of the US dime, and some fun facts about this crucial component of American currency.
Who’s on the Dime?
The current figure on the obverse (front) of the dime is Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States. Introduced in 1946, just after Roosevelt’s death, the Roosevelt Dime was a way to honor this beloved president who led the nation through both the Great Depression and World War II. Roosevelt’s portrait was designed by John R. Sinnock, the Chief Engraver at the U.S. Mint at that time.
Roosevelt was chosen for the dime in part due to his work with the March of Dimes, a charity initially aimed at combating polio, a disease that Roosevelt himself suffered from. It was thought fitting to honor him this way, immortalizing his legacy on the dime.
On the reverse side of the dime, we see a torch, representing liberty; an olive branch signifying peace; and an oak branch, symbolizing strength and independence. This design has been on the dime since 1946 and was also the work of John R. Sinnock.
Early Dime Years
The first dimes were minted in 1796, just a few years after the establishment of the U.S. federal mint in 1792. The first design was the Draped Bust dime, featuring a portrait of Lady Liberty. The Draped Bust design, created by Robert Scot, the U.S. Mint’s first Chief Engraver, lasted from 1796 to 1807.
Next came the Capped Bust dime (1809-1837), followed by the Seated Liberty dime (1837-1891). The Barber dime, named after its designer, Charles E. Barber, ran from 1892 to 1916. The Mercury dime, which features a portrait of Liberty wearing a winged cap, often mistaken for Mercury, the Roman messenger god, was circulated from 1916 to 1945.
Dime Fun Facts
- The term “dime” comes from the French word “disme,” meaning “tithe” or “tenth part,” indicating its value of one-tenth of a dollar.
- Unlike other coins, the dime has 118 ridges around its edge, called “reeds.” It’s believed that the reeding was initially done to prevent coin clipping and counterfeiting.
- The Roosevelt Dime was the first coin to feature a president still alive at the initial release.
- The 1916-D Mercury Dime is one of the rarest and most sought-after dimes. Only about 264,000 were minted due to changes at the Denver Mint.
- The dime is the smallest and thinnest coin in current U.S. circulation, making it distinctive and easily recognizable.
- The “March of Dimes” was originally a fundraiser to combat polio. After a successful campaign led to a vaccine in 1955, the organization shifted its focus to preventing congenital disabilities and infant mortality.
The dime may be small, but it carries a significant history and cultural weight. It’s more than just currency; it’s a piece of Americana, symbolizing our past and bringing stories of resilience, change, and progress.
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