Liberty never wore her hair completely free and unfettered by a
ribbon or turban on the first dimes, unlike the allegorical figure on
the Flowing Hair half dimes, half dollars and dollars. Instead,
Liberty appeared in her Draped Bust guise on the first dime (or disme,
as it was alternatively spelled then) in 1796, her hair restrained
(though only lightly) by a ribbon bound in back.
COIN VALUES: See how much your Early
dimes would are worth today
Dimes took a somewhat different design path than did the half dimes.
Introduced as they were two years after the first half dimes, half
dollars and dollars, the 1796 dimes went into production with the
Draped Bust design, introduced in 1795 on the silver dollar and in
1796 on the half dime, quarter dollar and half dollar.
Like the half dimes of 1794 through 1805, the first dimes (1796
through 1807) bear no representation of their 10-cent denomination,
either on the Small Eagle reverse of 1796 to 1797 or the Heraldic
Eagle reverse of 1798 to 1807. The Draped Bust obverse design was used
with both reverse designs. The Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle designs
were replaced in 1809 with the Capped Bust, Lifted Wings dime, the
latter designation given to the eagle reverse in Early United
States Dimes: 1796-1837, the standard reference work on the
subject. Unlike the two previous reverse designs, the Lifted Wings
reverse bears a denominational marking in the form of 10 C. (the C. is
the abbreviation for Cents). Both designs were used through 1837,
although slight modifications were made when the close collar was
introduced to replace the open collar about 1827-28.
The five authors of Early United States Dimes:
1796-1837 believe that the classification of Capped Bust dimes as
Large Diameter and Small Diameter varieties is incorrect. Instead,
they believe the changes in diameter resulted from changes in minting
equipment, specifically the collar, in the late 1820s.
Prior to 1828, edge designs were applied to silver planchets in a
separate process before striking (generally). Planchets were placed
into a Castaing machine, which applied the reeding, lettered
inscription or other edge design appropriate for the denomination and date.
In order to not damage the edge design elements during striking, an
open collar was used. The opening in the collar was larger than the
planchet. During striking, the metal of the planchet spread slightly,
but not to the limits of the open collar (as long as the planchet was
centered properly on the anvil die).
The introduction of the close collar, however, changed minting
procedures. The open collar was replaced with a close, reeded or
grooved collar with a smaller opening. The planchet spread during
striking, with the metal of the edge flowing into the grooves inside
the collar. The use of the close collar eliminated the need for the
open collar and Castaing machine, since the designs for all three
sides of the coin – obverse, reverse and edge – were generated at the
moment of striking.
The authors of Early United States Dimes find no clear
separation between Large Diameter and Small Diameter dimes. Instead,
they find a gradually reducing diameter from 1827 to 1832, and a
gradually increasing diameter from 1834 to 1837. They believe the open
collar and close collar explain the differences in diameter.
Keep reading from our "Know Your U.S. Coins" series:
Cents and half cents:
2- and 3-cent coins:
Dimes and half dimes: