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HomeUS CoinsLiberty Seated Dime, Obverse Legend (1860-1891) : A Collector's Guide

Liberty Seated Dime, Obverse Legend (1860-1891) : A Collector’s Guide

1860 Liberty Seated Dime. Image: Stack's Bowers / Adobe Stock.
1860 Liberty Seated Dime. Image: Stack’s Bowers / Adobe Stock.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
Thirteen stars were added to the obverse of the Liberty Seated Dime in 1838 to satisfy the interests of those who missed the John Reich and William Kneass stars from the earlier Capped Bust type, but those stars caused problems for the United States Mint and were singled out as the reason for the incomplete strikes that were common to the type.

This was because the stars were positioned opposite raised portions of the reverse design (including the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA legend). Thus, two higher relief areas of the coin competed for metal as it flowed into the die recesses during minting.

Chief Engraver James Barton Longacre removed the stars from the obverse to address this issue, replacing them with the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA inscription from the reverse. A more full-bodied cereal wreath replaced the existing reverse legend and the smaller wreath.

Numismatist Harold P. Newlin is credited with suggesting the cereal wreath to Mint Director James Ross Snowden, and in some writings, the wreath is attributed as “Newlin’s Wreath of Cereals.” But because portions of the raised wreath are opposite the now obverse legend, the striking quality of the Liberty Seated Dime did not improve significantly, though Longacre made additional minor changes in attempts to ameliorate the striking impression.

Dimes produced during this period include a legendary numismatic rarity, the 1873-CC Without Arrows, which represented by a single specimen.

A minor change in the weight of dimes required by the Mint Act of February 12, 1873 resulted in a distinct type-within-a-type, identified by the addition of an arrowhead on either side of the date on dimes minted in 1873 and 1874. Though over 12,000 1873-CC Liberty Seated Dimes without arrows were minted, most were destroyed after the passage of the Act. Some scholars speculate that the lone survivor was retrieved from an 1874 United States Assay Commission meeting by Mint Superintendent Archibald Loudon Snowden; the coin provenance has been traced from Snowden to famed collector Louis Eliasberg, Sr. (sold from that collection in the late 1990s), and more recently to the Battle Born and Prestwick Collections.

Another unusual coin in the series is a pattern 1859 Liberty Seated Dime that has the obverse stars design paired with Longacre’s cereal wreath; thus, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA does not appear anywhere on the coin. These pattern dimes, estimated at 12 survivors, all in Proof, numismatists refer to as transitional pieces, not made for circulation though likely produced by Snowden for trade with collectors to fill gaps in the Mint’s collection.

In 1875, the arrows were removed from the obverse, but Liberty Seated Dimes produced thereafter continued to be produced at the revised slightly higher weight.

How Much Are Liberty Seated Dimes with Legend Worth?

Thousands of circulation strike Liberty Seated Dimes with Legend are listed in census/population reports, including a few Prooflike pieces. Prices are moderate for many pre-1873 pieces through MS63, expensive as MS64, and finer. Coins issued from 1860 through ’67 are generally expensive in all Mint State grades. Those struck from 1875 through the end of the series are modestly priced up to MS64, expensive as MS67, and finer.

Heritage Auctions sold the unique 1873-CC Without Arrows dime on January 12, 2023, for a record price of $3,600,000 USD. This coin is one of the great American rarities and is so elusive that series specialists consider it “uncollectible.”

Other higher-priced dimes of the type are the 1871-CC, the 1872-CC, and the 1885-S.

Proofs are moderately priced to MS64, expensive as Gem and finer, with Cameo and Deep Cameo examples at a slightly higher premium. Prices for Proof Seated, Obverse Legend Dimes are uniform across all dates, and a few hundred examples for each date have been certified.

Varieties

Many varieties are known, including the 1872 Doubled Die Reverse; the 1873 Close 3 and Open 3 (referring to the amount of space between the end knobs of the 3 digit); the 1875-S and 1875-CC Mintmarks Above and Below Bow; the 1890-S Large S and Small S; the 1891-O O Over Horizontal O; and other minor die variations.

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 dentils along the raised rim. UNITED STATES 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 dimes were minted at Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Carson City; O, S, and CC mintmarks are located below the knot of the ribbon bow inside the rim or, on some 1875 San Francisco and Carson City pieces, above the bow below DIME.

Specifications

Liberty Seated Dime, Legend
Years Of Issue: 1860-73; 1875-91
Mintage (Circulation): High: 15,310,000 (1891); Low: 6,000 (1867)
Mintage (Proof): High: 1,355 (1880); Low: 460 (1863)
Alloy: 90% silver and 10% copper
Weight: 2.49 g through early 1873; 2.50 g from midyear 1873 to 1891.
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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