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Draped Bust Dimes (1796-1807)

Draped Bust Dimes

Designer: Gilbert Stuart. Engraver: Robert Scot. Weight: 2.70 grams. Composition: .8924 silver, .1076 copper. Approx diameter: 19mm. Reeded edge. Mint: Philadelphia.

Designed by Robert Scot, the Draped Bust, Small Eagle Reverse dime shows a draped bust of Liberty with her hair tied with a ribbon. The word LIBERTY is above and the date is below. To the left of Liberty there are 8 six-pointed stars, and to the right there are 7. The Small Eagle Reverse shows a skinny eagle perched on a wreath that is tied with a bow and surrounded by the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The left half of the wreath is laurel, and the right half is palm. There is no denomination indicated on the coin, and the edge is reeded.

Thomas Jefferson chose Scot to be the first Chief Engraver of the United States Mint on November 23, 1793. Scot was born in 1744 in Edinburgh, Scotland or England. (Documentary evidence is lacking as to where he was born.) He was trained as a watchmaker in England and learned engraving afterwards. He moved to the United States in 1777, where he worked as an engraver of plates, bills of exchange, and office scales. During the Revolution, he was an engraver of paper money. In 1780 he was made the State Engraver of Virginia. He moved to Philadelphia the next year. He was appointed Chief Engraver of the United States Mint on November 23, 1793 by David Rittenhouse, Mint Director. His salary in 1795 was $1,200 per year.

The Mint Director received only $800 dollars per year more. Scot’s ability to make dies was limited, and in his advanced years he had failing eyesight. His work was somewhat less than that done in Europe at the time, and Scot was criticized for its poor quality. He was responsible for designs of most of America’s first coins. These include the Flowing Hair and the Draped Bust motifs used on early silver coins and the Capped Bust gold coins. Scot also designed the 1794-1797 half-cent, the 1800-1808 draped bust half-cent, and the Thomas Jefferson Indian Peace Medal. He died on November 1, 1823 and was succeeded by William Kneass as Chief Engraver.

The early Mint in Philadelphia had many challenges. Each of the specialists, the designers, engravers, and press operators were men who had previously worked in other fields. Coin manufacturing was a new trade for them. Production was sporadic. For the new Mint to coin each of the mandated denominations, it took four years. This delay was partly because of inexperience and governmental obstacles. Bonds that were unrealistically high were impediments to engravers working with precious metals. Congress was not united on the need for a government mint since private and foreign coinage seemed to work. Because of the non-existent or low production numbers in the early years of the Mint, foreign copper, silver and gold circulated along with American made coins for many years until they were later demonetized.

Record keeping in the Mint’s early years was fairly inaccurate. At the end of the eighteenth century Philadelphia had recovered from the British occupation and Revolutionary War. It was the second largest city in the English-speaking world, but it could do nothing to protect its citizens from the mosquito-borne epidemic of yellow fever. Its wealthy citizens went to the countryside to escape, and the poor grimly waited their fate. Of course these annual epidemics caused havoc with all manufacturing that required continuity, such as a coinage sequence. In addition to yellow fever, chaos at the Mint was also caused by chronic bullion shortages, coin dies that would wear out and had to be re-engraved because they were not taken out of production until they failed completely, and a Chief Engraver, Robert Scot, who was in his seventies and had failing eyesight.


 

 



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