The Draped Bust Dime, also called the Small Eagle design, was the first dime to be circulated in the United States.
The 1796 dated Draped Bust Dime was actually minted in October of 1795 with a total ofonly 42,378 pieces being struck. This design for the dime continued through the year 1807, however, no dimes were struck for the years 1799 and 1806.
The Draped Bust design was used on all U.S. silver coins beginning in 1796.
All Draped Bust Dimes were struck at the Philadelphia Mint, so none of the coins bear a mintmark.
The design for Lady Liberty for the obverse was taken from a drawing by Gilbert Stuart, of an actual woman, Ann Willing Bingham. Draped Bust Dimes struck in 1796 have 15 stars, one for each state that existed at the time.
The obverse features the word “LIBERTY” at the top above Liberty’s head. In 1797 an additional star was added to represent the admission of Tennessee. Elias Boudinot, the U.S. Mint Director, quickly realized that the addition of a new star for each new state added to the Union could cause problems. Boudinot ordered the design to be modified to include only 13 stars to represent the thirteen original colonies. This gave us two varieties for 1797; one with 16 stars and one with 13.
The reverse of the early Draped Bust Dimes features a small eagle perched upon a cloud and encircled by a wreath of olive branches. In 1798 the reverse was modified with the small eagle being replaced by the Heraldic Eagle (from the Great Seal of the United States). The Coinage Act of 1792 did not require coins greater than one cent in value to include the denomination, so there is no indication of the coins value in the design.
Draped Bust Dimes are rare with even a low grade example costing hundreds of dollars. The most valuable of the series are the 1796 (either variety) and the 1798/1797 13 stars variety. An avid type collector will want to have at least one Draped Bust Dime in their collection.
Diameter: 19.0 mm
Weight: 2.70 g
Composition: 89.24% Silver 10.76% Copper
Designer: Robert Scot