Dimes – Seated Dime, Obverse Legend, Arrows 1873-1874

The Mint Act of February 12, 1873, mandated a slight increase in the weight of the dime, to 2.50 grams; a difference which was within the allowable weight tolerance of the current dime planchet. Some have speculated that previously made planchets were used to produce dimes in 1873 and 1874 even after the mandated change. There is no reliable means of distinguishing between old weight and new weight dimes because of acceptable planchet variances; and even if Congress did not consider efficiency, the Mint often did, hesitant to waste either manpower or metal. The weight change of the dime and other silver coins provided by the Act was, however, neither the only nor the most controversial provision of that legislation. The two cent piece, the silver three cent piece, and the silver half dime were all eliminated by the Act, but more troubling to some was the discontinuation of the standard circulating silver dollar in favor of a slightly heavier trade dollar for export use. Called the “Crime of 1873” by silver mining interests (fewer silver dollars produced by the Mint meant less silver bullion sales to the Mint), persistent efforts by that group to rectify the perceived wrong eventually resulted in the Bland-Allison Act and renewed production of silver dollars, the Morgans.

Photos used with permission and courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries

The motivation behind increasing the weight of the dime (and both the quarter and the half dollar) was the desire to move U.S. coins to the metric system of weight, thereby making our coins compatible to the system used by much of the rest of the world. The two sponsoring legislators, Senator John Sherman and Representative William Kelley, believed that by so doing, American coins would be accepted worldwide as circulating bullion issues (the same vision resulted in the $4 gold piece, the Stella, in 1879 and 1880). To distinguish the new ‘world-compatible’ dimes from the old, an arrowhead was placed on each side of the date by Chief Engraver William Barber. As before, when the arrowheads were added to instead denote a decrease in the dime’s weight, the style was short-lived. Dimes produced from 1875 through the end of the series were produced without arrowheads but at the new, slightly higher weight standard; it was assumed that by then the public had accepted the modification. Whether overseas trading partners were influenced by the change is questionable, for regardless of what a coin looked like, the bullion value was the important thing for silver and gold coins.

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 slightly curved banner displaying LIBERTY. The date is at the bottom, below the rock upon which Liberty rests, flanked on each side by a short arrowhead. Forming a partial circle at the top, inside dentils along the raised rim, are UNITED STATES on the left side, and OF AMERICA on the right. On the reverse a wreath of two branches of corn, wheat, maple leaves, and oak leaves forms a concentric circle inside a ring of dentils next to the rim, the two branches tied by a ribbon at the bottom. The denomination ONE DIME is in the center, each word on a separate line. Seated Obverse Legend, Arrows at Date dimes were minted at Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Carson City; S and CC mintmarks are located below the knot of the ribbon bow inside the rim.

A few hundred circulation strike Seated, Arrows dimes are listed in census/ population reports, though most examples are Philadelphia Mint issues. Philadelphia issues are moderately priced to near-Gem, expensive as Gem and finer, with San Francisco pieces expensive as near-Gem and finer. Both Carson City dates of the type are expensive to very expensive at all grades, with the 1874-CC two to three times more expensive than the 1873-CC to XF40, and extremely expensive finer than that. The 1873 Doubled-Die Obverse is more expensive than the normal 1873 Philadelphia issue, but not excessively so. A few hundred proofs of each date of the type have also been certified, including some designated as Cameo. Prices are moderate to PR64, expensive finer that that.

Designer: James B. Longacre, engraved by Anthony C. Paquet (cereal wreath), after Robert Ball Hughes/ Christian Gobrecht, from a Titian Peale/ Thomas Sully design
Circulation Mintage: high 2,939,300 (1874), low 10,817 (1874-CC)
Proof Mintage: high 800 (1873), low 700 (1874)
Denomination: Ten cents (10/100)
Diameter: 17.9 mm; reeded edge
Metal Content: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: 2.5 grams
Varieties: A few known, including the 1873 Doubled-Die obverse, and other minor die variations such as the arrow orientation.

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 Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Walter Breen. Doubleday.

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