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HomeUS CoinsLiberty Seated Dime, Legend and Arrows (1873-1874) : A Collector's Guide

Liberty Seated Dime, Legend and Arrows (1873-1874) : A Collector’s Guide

1874 Liberty Seated Dime. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1874 Liberty Seated Dime. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
The Mint Act of February 12, 1873, mandated a slight increase in the weight of the dime to 2.50 grams. Interestingly, this weight increase was so slight that it was within the allowable weight tolerance of the prior tenor’s dime planchet.

The motivation behind increasing the weight of the dime (and both the quarter and the half dollar) was to move U.S. coins to the metric system, thereby making our coins compatible with the system used by much of the world. The two legislative cosponsors, Senator John Sherman (R-OH) and Representative William D. Kelley (R-PA4) believed that by doing so, American coins would be accepted worldwide as circulating bullion issues (the same vision resulted in the Stella, a $4 gold piece, in 1879 and 1880).

Some have speculated that previously made planchets were used to produce dimes in 1873 and 1874, even after the mandated change, as there is no reliable means of distinguishing between the old-weight and new-weight dimes because of acceptable planchet variances, and even if Congress did not consider efficiency, the United States Mint often did, hesitant to waste either manpower or metal.

However, the weight change of the dime and other silver coins provided by the Act was neither the only nor the most controversial provision of that legislation. The Mint Act of February 12, 1873, also eliminated the two-cent piece, the silver three-cent piece, and the half dime, 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 fewer silver bullion sales to the Mint), persistent efforts by that group to rectify the perceived wrong eventually resulted in the Bland-Allison Act of 1878 and renewed production of silver dollars with the famous Morgan Dollar type.

U.S. Mint Chief Engraver William Barber placed an arrowhead on each side of the date to distinguish the new’ world-compatible’ dimes from the old. As before, the style was short-lived, as was the addition of the arrowheads in 1853 to denote a decrease in the dime’s weight.

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 the public had become acclimated to the modification by then). Whether the change influenced overseas trading partners is questionable, for regardless of what a coin looked like, the bullion value was the basis of value for silver and gold coins.

How Much Are Liberty Seated Dimes with Legend and Arrows Worth?

Slightly more than 2,000 grading events for circulation strikes Liberty Seated Dimes of the Legend and Arrows type are listed in the major third-party grading service census/population reports, though most examples are Philadelphia Mint issues. Philadelphia issues are moderately priced in circulated grades through Choice Uncirculated but grow increasingly expensive in Gem and finer. San Francisco pieces are generally worth more and become expensive in Choice or finer. Both Carson City issues of this type are scarce-to-rare and priced accordingly, with the 1874-CC running from two to three times more expensive than the 1873-CC in grades up to XF40, and both being prohibitively expensive for most collectors in grades than finer than that.

A few hundred Proofs of each date of the type have also been certified, including some designated as Cameo. Prices are moderate to PR64, and prices increase in grades finer than that.

Varieties

A few are known, including the 1873 Doubled Die Obverse (DDO) and other minor die varieties related to the orientation of the arrows. The 1873 DDO is more expensive than the normal 1873 Philadelphia issue, but not excessively.

Design

On the obverse is a full-length representation of Liberty wearing long, flowing robes and seated on a rock, her 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, draped over 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. The legend forms a partial circle at the top, inside the denticles along the raised rim. UNITED STATES is inscribed on the left side, and OF AMERICA on the right.

On the reverse, a vegetal wreath comprised of two branches of corn, wheat, maple leaves, and oak leaves forms a concentric circle inside a ring of denticles next to the rim. A ribbon at the bottom ties the two branches. The denomination ONE DIME is positioned in the center, each word on a separate line.

Seated Obverse Legend and Arrows dimes were minted at Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Carson City; S and CC mint marks are located below the knot of the ribbon bow inside the rim.

Coin Specifications

Liberty Seated Dime, Legend and Arrows
Years Of Issue: 1873-74
Mintage (Circulation) High: 2,939,300 (1874); Low: 10,817 (1874-CC)
Mintage (Proof) High: 800 (1873); Low: 700 (1874)
Alloy: 90% silver and 10% copper
Weight: 2.5 g
Diameter: 17.9 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: James B. Longacre | engraved by Anthony C. Paquet (cereal wreath) after Robert Ball Hughes/Christian Gobrecht, from a Titian Peale/Thomas Sully design
REV Designer: James B. Longacre | engraved by Anthony C. Paquet (cereal wreath) after Robert Ball Hughes/Christian Gobrecht, from a Titian Peale/Thomas Sully design

 

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References

Bowers, Q. David. The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Whitman Publishing.

–. A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Whitman Publishing.

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

Greer, Brian. The Complete Guide to Liberty Seated Dimes. DLRC Press.

Guth, Ron, and Jeff Garrett. United States Coinage: A Study by Type. Whitman Publishing.

Taxay, Don. The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Arco Publishing.

Yeoman, R.S and Jeff Garrett (editor). The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. Whitman Publishing.

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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