The Seated Liberty (or Liberty Seated) dime debuted in 1837 and underwent a number of design modifications over the course of its 54-year run. In 1837, United States Mint engraver (and soon to be Chief Engraver) Christian Gobrecht’s design debuted with a fairly clean, yet simple obverse that featured a seated Liberty accompanied only by the date in the exergue. Midway through the 1838 production cycle, 13 stars (in a 7-1-5 configuration) were added to the obverse.
In 1840, the obverse design was modified slightly to add flowing drapery behind Liberty’s raised left arm. The outline of the cloth covering the pedestal to the left of the shield was also adjusted. This type was put on a short hiatus from 1853 to 1855, as the Mint was forced to lower the weight of the coin from 2.67 to 2.48 grams to compensate for the rise in silver prices. Arrows pointing away from the date denote this type.
In 1856, the Mint removed the arrows. The new tenor of 2.48 grams remained, however.
In the middle of the 1860 production cycle, the U.S. Mint adjusted the coin’s design by removing the stars and replacing them with the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. This design stayed unaltered until 1873, when the Mint once again altered the weight of the dime, this time raising it from 2.48 to 2.5 grams. This weight would remain in use for the dime until 1965, when the metallic composition of the denomination changed from 90% silver to copper-nickel clad. Today’s dimes weigh 2.27 grams and have no precious metal content.
In 1875, the arrows were removed and the With Legend type of 1860 resumed.
Over the course of its production life, the Seated Liberty dime was struck at the mints in Philadelphia, Carson City, New Orleans, and San Francisco. The series has a number of rare issues, including the conditionally rare 1843-O and 1859-S; the 1873-CC and the 1874-CC, both of which sell for over $100,000 each in Mint State; and the possibly unique 1873-CC, which is ranked #80 in Jeff Garrett’s 100 Greatest U.S. Coins (5th Edition).
The 1860 Dime in Specific
Seated Liberty dime collectors owe a debt of gratitude to R.W. Julian, whose in-depth overview of the Philadelphia Mint’s dime output in the 1860s was detailed in the June 1964 issue of Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine. Julian’s figures were more in-depth than those published in the Annual Mint Director’s Report and assembled through original research of Mint records at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
Julian accounts for a total mintage of 607,000 dimes struck at Philadelphia, with the business strike output executed over the course of 13 days interspersed throughout the year. This total dwarfs the 140,000 pieces struck at San Francisco (with the obverse Type of 1840) and the paltry 40,000 coin emission of New Orleans (the With Legend obverse of 1860). As a result, without accounting for the more than one dozen published varieties for the date, the 1860 Philadelphia issue is abundant enough in most collectible grades to be considered a type coin. The S-Mint is scarce in all grades and the O-Mint issue is one of the series’ semi-key issues.
The Philadelphia Mint struck its first dimes of 1860 on January 17. On that day, the Mint reports an emission of 60,000 pieces. 576,000 of the year’s total mintage was struck before the fiscal year expired at the end of June. In July, the denomination saw a modest emission of 36,000 pieces and then nothing until October 4. Two production days in October and two in December wrap up the story of the 1860 dime.
Market Values of Circulation Strike 1860 Dimes
As a representative example of the “With Legend” type, the 1860 dime carries a collector value ranging from $20 for a problem-free low-grade example to about $150 for a typical example in About Uncirculated condition. Given the degree that many classic coins are mishandled or inaccurately represented for sale, it is highly suggested that one buy only certified examples of the issue in all Mint State grades – or buy raw examples only from reputable dealers who specialize in classic U.S. coins. Better yet, buy from reputable dealers who specialize in this particular series if you’re looking to take a deep dive into the Seated Liberty dime.
Recent auction results for Mint State examples are mixed. Choice Uncirculated examples in MS63 and MS64 have seen modest gains in the past few years, while public sales records of examples in MS65 and MS66 have seen declines in price over the same period. The 1860 dime is conditionally scarce in MS66 and is rare in grades above. CoinWeek sets the current market value for an MS63 to be between $425 and $450 USD. That value jumps $200 for examples in MS64 and again in MS65. The 1860 dime seldom trades in the conditionally scarce grade of MS66. The last two examples sold by Heritage Auctions have brought $1,058 and $1,175, respectively.
CAC has certified 31 pieces in all grades, with six MS66 and two MS67 examples accounted for in its census. One of the CAC MS67 pieces is a gorgeous, nearly fully brilliant example that currently serves as the PCGS Coinfacts plate coin. This example, graded MS67+, appears to be an F-107 variety that uses Obverse 7 paired with Reverse G. A scraggy die crack running across the base of the ribbon on the reverse serves as an easy diagnostic for the variety.
In total, 12 obverses were paired 12 reverses for this issue, with the rarest variety (the F-111) exhibiting a prominent die cud at 10 o’clock on the obverse. For more information on die varieties for the 1860 dime, check out coin dealer Gerry Fortin’s excellent online reference by following this link.
Market Values of the 1860 Dime in Proof
1860 Proofs were produced on March 8. All 1,000 were struck with one pair of dies and, according to series specialist Gerry Fortin, reverse die doubling is visible on the DI of DIME.
The market for 1860 dimes in Proof is interesting and potentially advantageous for those seeking entry at present levels.
Before the Legend Rare Coin Auctions July 2014 auction where a near blast white example in PCGS PR68 Cameo CAC from the Simpson Collection brought $18,212.50, the highest price paid for an 1860 dime in Proof was the $12,650 that an NGC PR68 Cameo brought in 2010. That coin was an attractive rainbow toner (although a toned fingerprint was apparently imparted at the one o’clock position). That same coin brought $7,637.50 in 2013 after it was crossed into a PCGS PR67+ Cameo holder.
The price decline between the two sales is more a factor of the downward shift of the market than a statement on the de minimis half grade differential between the two services. The Simpson result, while a record, speaks more to the superlative nature of that specimen. In grades PR63-PR67, however, 2019 market prices are significantly lower than they were at the start of the decade.
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The obverse features a sitting depiction of the personification of Liberty holding a Liberty pole in her left hand as she looks behind her over her right shoulder. At the top of the pole is a Phrygian cap, a classic symbol of emancipation. Her right arm and hand cradle a Union shield, which features a ribbon with the word LIBERTY running from the upper left to the lower right. The legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA wraps around the top of the obverse from left to right. The date 1860 sits below Liberty. Dentils surround the rim.
The denomination ONE DIME in the middle, with a closed wreath of wheat surrounding it. Dentils surround the rim.
|Year Of Issue:||1860|
|Denomination:||Dime (10 cents)|
|Mint Mark:||None (Philadelphia)|
|Alloy:||90% Silver, 10% Copper|
|OBV Designer||Christian Gobrecht|
|REV Designer||Christian Gobrecht|
|Quality:||Business Strike, Proof|