Ultimate Guide to Rare Collectible Dimes: What You Need to Know

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Ultimate Guide to Rare Collectible Dimes

From 1796 to 1964, dimes were made of silver and copper. Dimes issued from 1796 to early 1837 contained 89.24% silver and 10.76% copper. Dimes released from later part of 1837 until 1964 consisted of 90% silver and 10% copper.

They have to be so small so that their intrinsic value will not be worth more than their face value. This is why dimes are created small and thin.

When the Seated Liberty dime was introduced, the diameter was reduced 18.8 millimeters to the current figure 17.9 millimeters to offset usage of a richer alloy.

Dimes from 1965 to present are composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel on the outer layer.

Since 1992, the US Mint has been issuing Silver Proof Sets every year. These contain 90% silver and 10% copper. These are not intended for general circulation, but for collectors only. This ultimate guide to rare collectible dimes will tell you the design history of dimes and the most valuable ones to add to your collection.

Dime Designs Through the Years

  • Disme (1792): the Coinage Act of 1792 introduced the “disme”. It was 10% the value and silver weight of one dollar. It was made of 89.24% silver and 10.76% copper. Only a limited number of these were minted but not circulated. Some were made of copper while others were only issued in 1796 because coins were not in demand at that time.
  • Draped Bust (1796 to 1807): these were the first dimes to be circulated. The obverse featured a draped bust of Liberty and the reverse a small eagle. But in 1798, the heraldic eagle design took over. 31 varieties of these dimes were released.
  • ​Capped Bust (1809 to 1837): these dimes featured the bust of Liberty wearing a Freedom cap, while the reverse was designed with a bald eagle. These were the first dimes minted with coin value. 123 varieties of these dimes were issued.
  • ​Seated Liberty (1837 to 1891): the obverse is an image of sitting Liberty who wears a dress and holds a staff, while the reverse features a simple “ONE DIME” text. The greatest rarities of this design were the 1873 and 1874 Carson City Dimes.
  • ​Barber (1892 to 1916): this design was named after Charles Barber, its designer. The same design was used with quarter and half-dollar as well. The obverse shows the bust of Liberty wearing a cap and headband. The reverse is similar to that of the seated Liberty’s.
  • Winged Liberty (1916 to 1945): also known as Mercury, the obverse shows Liberty facing left with wings on his head while the reverse depicts the image of fasces with olive branch.
  • Roosevelt Dimes (1946 to present): the design was chosen in honor of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The obverse is simple; featuring the bust of the president facing left while, the reverse features a torch, oak branch and olive branch.

Rare Bust Dimes

Since draped bust dimes were the first to be issued, expect them to be scarce.

These dimes are of importance for numismatists for these were the first dimes intended for circulation. Since dismes were not circulated, coin collectors usually start with 1796 Draped Bust dimes.

However, since there were a limited number of 1796 dimes were produced, collectors look at the entire Bust dime series as their starting point.

Numismatists often choose the Bust dimes to add to their collection according to their budget. Some collect only one Bust dime from 1796 to 1837. However, those who specialize in dimes see to it that they have major and minor varieties.

Value of Bust Dimes

The rare Bust dime dates include 1796, 1797 with 13 stars, 1797 with 16 stars, 1798 13 stars, 1798 small 8, 1802, 1804 with 13 stars, 1804 with 14 stars, 1822 and 1829 with curled base on 2. Their approximate value ranges from $1,100 to $7,000.

Those who do not fall in the rare category can be divided into two categories in terms of pricing. These are the Draped Bust dimes and the Capped Bust dimes.

For instance, Bust dimes are equal to $700 to $1,200 on average. If the dime has light to moderate wear, it may cost you around $2,000 to $4,000. On the other hand, Capped Bust dimes are more common than the Draped Bust dimes, so their value starts from $100 for circulated piece and $1,000 for uncirculated piece.

The better the condition of your Bust dime, the higher their value.

A slight improvement is often equivalent to a huge increase. If you have a dime in the Extremely Fine grading condition, it could be highly desirable and valuable.

Generally, a small difference in appearance could have a big impact on the value of the coin. An important note is that the value of Bust dimes is increasing so collectors are attracted to these coins.

Top 5 Bust Dimes

​1.  1796: being the first dime ever minted, 1796 dime survives and could be equal to $11,555 when auctioned. If you find one in good condition, you can have $1,765.

2.  1797: If you happen to find a 1797-dated dime, you might have $3,300 to as much as $14,000 so bring it immediately to a grading service.

3.  1802: this belongs to the list of the rare dates in Bust dimes, and could be equal to $1,900 on average.

4.  1804: find one in good condition, and expect to have around $1,800 to $3,200 but most collectors miss these coins.

5.  1822​: the value ranges from $1,700 to $7,500 depending on its condition.

Rare Liberty Dimes

The value of Seated Liberty dime series is increasing. Well-circulated coins can start from $11 to 412 but if you happen to find one from a rare date, the minimum value is $180. Collectors and dealers are willing to pay more for those in better condition. In this regard, rare dates and good condition are two important factors that influence the value of these coins.

Top 5 Seated Liberty Dimes

  • 1856 O: starts at $11 but uncirculated ones start at $710.
  • 1837: value starts at $35, while uncirculated ones start at $488.
  • 1841: value starts at $11 but uncirculated ones start at $294.
  • 1857: starts at $11 while uncirculated coins start at $286.
  • 1851: starts at $13 but uncirculated ones start at $260.

Rare Barber Dimes

The most famous Barber dime of all is the 1894-S. It is considered as one of the classic rarities in numismatics.

The reason for existence of these dimes is uncertain, for it is unclear whether they were truly minted in 24 pieces only or not. Several theories were made in this regard, but whatever the reason, this famous dime can be sold for more than a million dollar when auctioned.

Top 5 Rare Barber Dimes Apart from 1894-S

1.  1895-O: this dime comes close to 1894-S. The mintage is the lowest among Barber dime series, which is 440,000. It is hard to find in any grade, which makes it equivalent to five figures.

2.  1896-S: ​it ranks second to the lowest in mintage, which is 575,056 but is not as scarce as 1901-S. It is still difficult to hand and the uncirculated condition is very scarce.

3. 1901-S: ​well-circulated 1901-S dimes are not easy to find. A pristine coin can was sold at $23,000 at an auction in 2005.

4.  1903-S: ​scarce Barber dime issues like the 1904-S. The date rarely becomes available in auctions.

​5.  1913-S: it can be considered a semi-key date that is also of low mintage like the other Barber dimes, commanding higher prices.

Rare Mercury Dimes

Like the dimes in the Barber series, Mercury dimes are also hard to find in circulation. They are worth around $2 to $4 when struck from 1930s to 1940s. Each of them is equal to $1.23 and is all scarce and valued with silver at $14.80 an ounce. Demand for collection has resulted to higher values especially for the key dates. Collectors even consider a coin with an error to be a significant addition to their collection. This is the 1942 dime in which 2 is placed over 1 in the year.

Top 3 Rare Mercury Dimes

​1.  1916-D: considered very rare, with only a few pieces minted. This is the highest valued Mercury dime of all.

2.  1921: a semi rare dime even in low grades. If you have one is a very good condition, the value may be over a hundred dollars.

3.  ​1921-D: this is minted in Denver and is semi-rare. It can be rarely seen if not circulated and in good condition.

Highly Valued Roosevelt Dimes

The best Roosevelt dimes to collect include the ones from 1946 to 1964 because they have 90% silver and the ones with rare errors. They are less expensive and easier to collect because they are newer than the other series.

You can find Roosevelt dimes that once had a “W” mint mark for West Point New York. Roosevelt dimes may be lower in value, so expect a worn silver dime from 1946 to 1964 to be worth $1 to $2.

Uncirculated silver falling on the same period may only be worth $2 to $3 while worn copper-nickel may only be equivalent to 10 cents. The uncirculated counterpart is only worth 20 to 50 cents. However, if you are lucky to carry a coin under the following key dates, you better send them immediately to a grading service.

Top 5 Roosevelt Dimes


  • 1949-S: this was made at San Francisco and was the lowest in number, with only 13 million. The highly valued ones were the ones from San Francisco since the dime was also minted in Philadelphia and Denver.
  • 1955: the 1955 series of Roosevelt dimes is worth collecting, for they are also low in mintage. In fact, it is the lowest Roosevelt dime from the US Mint. Look for the Philadelphia version for it does not have a mint mark. Valuable ones are also from the uncirculated version in MS-62 or higher.
  • 1996-W: it is also low in number and most are uncirculated because it is issued only in 1996 proof set. It bears “W” mint mark and is very rare.
  • 1946: this one may not be rare but is the first issue of the series. It is easy to find in uncirculated condition but it may have a premium price.
  • 1982 (No "P"):​ this is an error dime, making it rare and valuable. A worker forgot to include the “P” mint mark on the die, resulting to a rare coin.

Collectors avidly seek old dimes that impressive values are made even for common coins that are in good condition.

Grading is important but it is quite complex. If you have a dime you can check out grading images to compare it and have an idea of how much it is worth.

Each series of dimes are graded and categorized in 5 grades. These are AU-55, AU-50, EF-45, EF-40, VF-30, VF-20, F-12, VG-8, G-4 and AG-3. Each grade has different specifications on the obverse and reverse sides of every series. Time and experience are required to accurately grade dimes.

Coin storage is often a box tucked in a drawer or shelf. If you want to to start collecting dimes seriously, you might want to consider preserving them and their value.

More economical coin supplies are available to hold single or groups of coins. You can organize them in a way that the higher valued ones are placed in the individual holders.

You can place the multiple coins in a good quality coin tube. Inert plastic is ideal for it does not react to the material of the coin so you won’t to worry about discoloration.

You may also opt for individual storage to better protect your coins. You can easily find coin holders in the market, but if you have so many coins to store, coin tubes are always the right choice. Modern coin boxes are also available to keep them altogether.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dime_(United_States_coin)

https://coins.thefuntimesguide.com/2014/11/silver-dimes.php#.Vtq-MpLCGv0&gsc.tab=0

http://www.coinstudy.com/dime-values.html

https://coins.thefuntimesguide.com/2010/12/bust_dimes.php#.Vtrx1JLCGv0&gsc.tab=0

http://www.coinstudy.com/seated-dimes-value.html

https://coins.thefuntimesguide.com/2007/12/how_to_grade_dimes.php#.VttdepLCGv0&gsc.tab=0

http://www.ebay.com/gds/Top-6-Roosevelt-Dimes-for-Collectors-/10000000178706565/g.html

https://coins.thefuntimesguide.com/2010/09/roosevelt_dimes.php#.VttVupLCGv0&gsc.tab=0

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