Dimes – Liberty Seated Dime, No Obverse Stars, 1837-1838

The portrayal of Liberty on Seated coins was favored by Mint Director Robert M. Patterson, who apparently did not like portraits on coins. This representation of Liberty was similar to the figure of Britannia used on copper English coins. Originally the Roman name for the island of Great Britain, Britannia became personified as a goddess, portrayed as a young woman wearing a helmet, wrapped in a garment, often seated on a rock, holding either a spear or a standard, with a shield that was used for support or was simply resting beside her. After Chief Engraver William Kneass was incapacitated by a stroke, second engraver Christian Gobrecht implemented Patterson’s ideas, which were based on drawings by artists Titian Peale and Thomas Sully. The new design appeared on silver dollars in 1836, and then on both dimes and half dimes in 1837, the latter two virtually identical except for the larger size of the dime.

Photos used with permission and courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries

The Liberty Seated, No Obverse Stars design was used for only two years, in 1837 for dimes produced at Philadelphia, and in 1838 for dimes produced at New Orleans. Dimes produced at Philadelphia in 1838 had stars added to the obverse field, the first year of the second type of the Liberty Seated dime. The Superintendent of the New Orleans Mint reported to Mint Director Patterson that the 1838-O dimes were in great demand because they circulated at the same value as the Mexican bit or one-real coin; but the real was actually worth 12 1/2 cents in silver, thus giving an instant profit to bullion traders. The production of the Liberty Seated dime was also the first time that all design elements, except for date and mintmark, were produced in the working die without the need for additional hand-struck elements. This technical change not only improved efficiency but along with the close collar also created a greater uniformity in dime production, thus providing a deterrent to counterfeiters.

On the obverse a full-length representation of Liberty wears long, flowing robes and is seated on a rock, head turned back to her right. Her left arm is bent and holds a pole topped by a Liberty cap. The right arm extends down at her side, hand supporting a Union shield across which is a curved banner displaying LIBERTY. The date is centered at the bottom, below the rock upon which Liberty rests. A circle of dentils lies inside the raised rim. The remaining field is clear of design elements, producing a medal-like appearance, particularly on the Philadelphia Mint issues.

The reverse has a concentric circle formed by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA inside the dentilled rim, broken at the bottom by the ribbon that ties the ends of two branches. The branches form another circle inside the text, though the ends are slightly separated at the top, and in the center is the denomination of ONE DIME, each word on a separate line. This is the first use of the word DIME on a U.S. coin, the denomination previously represented by 10 C. No Obverse Stars dimes were produced at Philadelphia and New Orleans; the O mintmark is located below DIME and above the bows of the ribbon.

Census/ population reports show a few hundred No Obverse Stars business strike dimes, including many Gem and finer examples and a few prooflike pieces. Only about 100 Small Date 1837 pieces have been certified, the lowest number of the three examples of the type (1837 Large Date, 1837 Small Date, and 1838-O). However, prices for the 1838-O are nearly twice those of the 1837 Philadelphia issues, particularly as Select Uncirculated and finer. All circulation issues are moderately priced to Select Uncirculated, expensive finer; all New Orleans examples are expensive as MS60 and finer. Proof examples of the Liberty Seated No Obverse Stars dime are rare (census reports currently show slightly over 40 submissions, twice the number believed to have survived), and one Cameo example has been certified. All proofs are expensive, increasing to very expensive as Gem and finer.

Designer: Christian Gobrecht, from a Titian Peale/ Thomas Sully sketches.
Circulation Mintage: high 1,992,500 (1838), low 981,500 (1840)
Proof Mintage: high 5 (each year 1838, 1839, 1840, estimated)
Denomination: Ten cents (10/100)
Diameter: 17.9 mm; reeded edge
Metal Content: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: 2.67 grams
Varieties: Several, including 1838 Large Stars, Small Stars, and Partial Drapery, plus other minor die variations.

Additional Resources :
CoinFacts: www.coinfacts.com
Coin Encyclopedia: www.ngccoin.com
The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. R.S Yeoman (author), Kenneth Bressett (editor). Whitman Publishing.
A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
United States Coinage: A Study by Type. Ron Guth and Jeff Garrett. Whitman Publishing.
The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Don Taxay. Arco Publishing.
Walter BreenÕs Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Walter Breen. Doubleday.

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