The Draped Bust dime was first issued in 1796, featuring what is called the Small Eagle reverse. In 1798, a new Heraldic Eagle reverse was introduced, with a total mintage of 27,550 across all varieties. The 1798 issues are known for their overdates (8 over 7), different numbers of stars on the reverses (16 and 13), and, on coins with no overdate, a large numeral ‘8’ or a small ‘8’ in the date on the obverse. While the Small 8 variety has proven itself rarer than the Large 8 over the last 300 years, any Draped Bust dime from 1798 is a condition rarity in Mint State. The piece on offer here has been judged strong for the grade (MS-64) by CAC and features golden and burnt cherry toning (with some cobalt on the reverse) to add to its eye appeal.
PCGS reports only three examples graded MS-64. A mere six total are graded higher: three more in MS-64+, two in MS-65, and a single coin in the top pop grade of MS-66.
And auction records for PCGS-graded MS-64 1798 Draped Bust Large 8 dimes are impressive. Most recently, a specimen sold in September 2019 went for $58,750, but going back five years one finds an example that went for $82,250 in May 2015. A few years before that, another coin sold for $33,350 in April 2012.
For more auction results, you can also search through the GreatCollections Auction Archives, with records for over 600,000 certified coins the company has sold over the past seven years.
At the time of writing, the high bid for this 1798 Draped Bust Large 8 dime is $40,610 after 43 bids.
Background of the Heraldic Eagle Draped Bust Dime
The Mint Act of 1792 specified coins of various denominations, including “dismes”, which were to be “of the value of one tenth of a dollar” [sic].
The first dimes were produced in 1786 from designs by Robert Scot, with Liberty said to be modeled after Philadelphia socialite Ann Willing Bingham and a reverse eagle similar to the design first used on silver coins in 1794.
Apparently as a result of criticism, Scot replaced the small reverse eagle in 1798 with a heraldic eagle modeled after the Great Seal of the United States. Though the number of obverse stars remained fixed at 13 from the last year of the previous design, the new reverse displayed 16 stars above the eagle. This was not a mistake or oversight but rather a result of economy. In order to minimize the number of dies needed for coinage, and because the gold quarter eagle and the dime were less than a millimeter difference in diameter, dies for the same reverse design were used interchangeably for the two coins. Over the eight years of the series, coins show reverses with 16 stars, 13 stars, and 14 stars.
Draped Bust Heraldic Eagle dimes were produced for eight years in the period 1798 through 1807, except for 1799, 1806, and 1808, all for circulation. The latter date was a one-year gap between the last of the Draped Bust dimes and the beginning of the Capped Bust series. No Proofs were made, but 1805-dated prooflike business strikes are listed in census/population reports.
The obverse of the Draped Bust Heraldic Eagle dime shows a right-facing Liberty with flowing hair tied by a ribbon, shoulders, and neckline loosely draped with rippled cloth. LIBERTY is at the top, with the date 1798 at the bottom. Thirteen six-pointed stars encircle the denticled rim between the two inscriptions, with seven on the left side and six on the right.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA encircles most of the reverse just inside the denticled rim. The center displays an eagle with outstretched wings, a banner proclaiming E PLURIBUS UNUM held in its beak, and a Union shield covering most of the body. The dexter (eagle’s right) claw clutches a bunch of arrows, the left an olive branch. Above the eagle and just below STATE OF is a curved line of clouds, and below that and above and around the eagle’s head are small six-pointed stars. Coins dated 1798 have either 16 or 13 stars; the following years all have 13 stars except for 1804 which has either 13 or 14 stars. Stars are typically arranged in arcs above the eagle’s head (with one star to each side), but some show a “cross” arrangement where the stars appear to be in diagonal lines. All coins were minted at Philadelphia, and no mintmarks are displayed on the coins.
The edge is reeded.