A selection of early Draped Bust dimes is among the highlights at the
June 10 to 13 Pre-Long Beach Auctions in Los Angeles by Ira and Larry
The dime denomination was introduced in 1796 and the auction
features an example of this first year graded Mint State 64 by
Numismatic Guaranty Corp.
Early dimes from 1796 through 1837 are collected by JR varieties, a
tribute to engraver John Reich who created the Capped Bust Liberty
design that was first used on the denomination in 1809. The 1796
Draped Bust, Small Eagle dime on offer is an example of the JR-6
variety, called the “hyphenated date” variety because of a heavy die
crack between the 17 that extends to the 9 in the date.
The Draped Bust, Small Eagle type was struck at the Philadelphia
Mint in 1796 and 1797, making it a distinct two-year type in the dime
series. While some examples were saved at the time of issue as a
novelty, especially since the lower denomination made it a
(relatively) inexpensive keepsake, examples in higher grades without
problems are infrequently encountered. The offered example is
estimated at $40,000 to $50,000.
The early dimes remain a collecting area that is ripe for discovery.
For example, the 1796 JR-7 variety was first identified in 2002 and a
second example turned up in 2016. As the Goldbergs reminded bidders,
“Draped Bust dimes are one of the toughest series to collect. Nice
examples of most dates are quite sparse, and assembling a high grade
collection takes considerable patience.”
A 1797 Draped Bust, Small Eagle half dollar graded NGC About
Uncirculated 55 has the top estimate of the sale, at $100,000 to
$115,000. The Overton 101a variety features 15 obverse stars and is a
solid example of this rare two-year type. It is listed as Amato 410 in
Dr. Jon Amato’s book The Draped Bust Half Dollars of 1796–1797,
which listed all examples then known to the author, as of 2013.
A new reverse design
The reverse design of the dime switched to the Heraldic Eagle type
in 1798, and this reverse continued to be paired with the Draped Bust
obverse until 1807.
A JR-3 1803 Draped Bust dime graded NGC MS-61 is a rare Uncirculated
survivor estimated to sell in excess of $40,000. The offered dime has
incredibly vibrant lapis lazuli blue color. The description explains,
“This is an extraordinary coin as there are no more than four or five
1803 dimes that can claim Mint State condition.”
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While some striking weakness is noted at the top of the obverse by
the B in LIBERTY and at the corresponding area on the reverse at the
eagle’s tail, the strike is otherwise bold. The issue is well known as
being poorly struck, generally resulting in weak details in the
eagle’s breast feathers.
The finest known example of a JR-3 1803 dime, graded MS-64 by
Professional Coin Grading Service, sold for $211,500 on May 19, 2015,
at the first D. Brent Pogue auction by Sotheby’s and Stack’s Bowers Galleries.
An 1805 Draped Bust dime graded PCGS MS-66 is another standout,
estimated to sell for more than $50,000. Two distinct Heraldic Eagle
reverse subtypes were used on dimes this year — one with four berries
on the olive branch, of which this is an example, and one with five
berries. The catalog notes that both sides feature light adjustment
marks as made, although they may not be traditional adjustment marks
that were used to remove metal to regulate the weight of planchet
within a set standard (a Draped Bust dime should weigh 2.7 grams).
Rather, these parallel lines may be the result of striations from
the rolling mills that were transferred to the strip from which
planchets were cut. The marred strip resulted in lines in the
planchets that survived striking to be seen on the coins.
The description notes that the dime is frosty and white, with just a
hint of toning, summarizing, “A wonderful type coin that offers a bold
strike, super clean surfaces and glowing mint luster. The fields are
amazing, they are virtually untouched by contact with other coins.”
Another high-grade survivor is an 1807 Draped Bust dime, JR-1,
graded PCGS MS-65, with an estimate of $25,000 to $30,000. Since it is
a common variety, it is well suited for a collector’s type set, with a
bold strike and “elegant light gold toning in areas, with much deeper
blue and russet accents around the rims.”
For those looking to learn more about early dimes, the 1984 book
Early United States Dimes 1796–1837, authored by the John
Reich Collectors Society, remains essential, and a useful recent text
in the field is the Bust Dime Variety Identification Guide by
Winston Zack, Louis Scuderi and Michael Sherrill. Coin World
columnist Brad Karoleff is president of the JRCS and editor of its
John Reich Journal, which publishes extensive information on
various early issues of the Philadelphia Mint.