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Liberty Seated Dimes (1837-1891)
1837 Seated Liberty Dime
Click Here to View Seated Liberty Dimes Inventory
The dime was first minted in 1796 has been made almost continuously until the present although the composition, design, and metallic content have changed significantly. The first type was the Draped Bust, Small Eagle that was minted in 1796 and 1797. It was followed by the Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle until 1807. The Capped Bust obverse was introduced in 1809 and modified in 1828. This modified design continued until 1837. The first Seated Liberty Dime, also known as the Liberty Seated Dime was also issued in 1837 and was minted until 1891.

The series has five varieties, one with no stars or legends on the obverse, two with stars on the obverse, and two with no stars but the legend on the obverse. Within the series there are many sub-varieties including Large and Small Dates, With and Without Drapery on Liberty’s left side and elbow, and mintmarks Above and Below the Bow.

Designed by Christian Gobrecht, the Seated Liberty Dime depicts Liberty seated looking over her shoulder to the left. She balances the Union Shield inscribed LIBERTY with her right hand and holds a staff on which is placed a Phrygian cap in her left. The date is below. The reverse shows the denomination written in two words on two lines surrounded by an open wreath. Dentils are around the periphery of both sides of the coin.

Variety 1, inspired by Gobrecht’s 1836 silver dollar, has no stars or legend on the obverse. This No Stars variety is different from the dollar in that it has a reverse with a wreath and inscription. The coin weighed 2.67 grams, was composed of .900 silver and .100 copper, had a diameter of 17.9 millimeters, and had a reeded edge. It was minted in Philadelphia and New Orleans. The 1837 issue has large and small dates. Proofs were made for 1837, but they are extremely rare.

Varieties 2 and 3 have thirteen six-pointed stars added to the obverse. There are seven to the left and six to the right with Stars 8 and 9 spaced on either side of Liberty’s cap. The weight of 2.67 grams continued until 1853, when it was reduced to 2.49 grams. Arrows were added at the date from 1853 to 1855 to show this change in weight. There was also an 1853 No Arrows issued before the weight change. The composition, diameter, and edging remained the same for Variety 3. Variety 2 was minted in Philadelphia and New Orleans. Variety 3 was also minted in San Francisco. Proofs are very rate with no more than 60 known for any date of these two types.

Varieties 4 and 5 show the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA on the obverse in place of the stars. This change was made to accommodate the thicker “cereal wreath” of wheat, corn, tobacco, sugar cane, and oak. Variety 4 continued the weight of 2.49 grams, but Variety 5 changed the weight to 2.50 grams. This change was signified by arrows added at the date for 1873 and 1874. From 1875 to 1891, Variety 4 resumed and continued until the end of the series. Proofs for Varieties 4 and 5 have been made continuously from 1860 to 1891. They are all scarce to rare with the exception of two exceedingly rare branch mint proofs, 1876-CC and 1891-O. The Philadelphia proofs range in mintage from 460 to 1,150.

Cornelius Vermeule has a very negative view of the Seated Liberty motif. He says of the design in his Numismatic Art in America, “[Liberty] has lost much of her plastic quality, becoming flatter and more like an engraving than a statue….Clutching her ridiculous little hat on a pole and the small shield nestling in the drapery at her side, Liberty looks anxiously over her shoulder as if a horde of Indians were sprinting…toward her.”

Issued for just less than a century, the Liberty Seated Dime saw many changes in United States history. From 1837 to 1891 there were 17 presidents from Andrew Jackson to Benjamin Harrison. During this time the Union grew from 16 to 44 states.

In the first year of the Seated Liberty Dime, 1837, Michigan, a non-slave state, was admitted to the Union as the 26th state. Richard Johnson was chosen by the Senate to be the first Vice President so selected. The Supreme Court membership was increased from seven to nine justices. Congress recognized the Republic of Texas, and Morse patented his telegraph and developed a code for it. The Panic of 1837 touched off a major recession that lasted until the mid-1840s. In May 1838 a Specie Circular that was promulgated by President Jackson requiring all land purchases from the government be made in hard currency was repealed. The measure had been blamed for making worse the economic crisis by taking large amounts of coinage from circulation. In a Supreme Court decision the court held that property rights can be overridden by public need. In 1841 William Henry Harrison became President. He died after only one month in office and was succeeded by John Tyler. The Dorr Rebellion, a civil war took place in Rhode Island. An attempt to impeach Tyler failed in 1843, and in 1844 Polk was elected president. Texas was annexed as Polk became president. Florida became the 27th state, and Texas became the 28th state. In 1846, the Mexican-American War began, and Iowa became the 29th state. Taylor was elected President, and Wisconsin became the 30th state. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican War. That same year, 1849, the California Gold Rush began. In 1850, Taylor died and Millard Fillmore became President.

Sectionalism and national unity were dominant themes of the next decade. In the Compromise of 1850, Texas surrendered its claim to New Mexico, California was admitted as a free state, New Mexico and Utah could become slave states if they so desired, the Fugitive Slave Act was strengthened, and slave trade was banned in Washington, D.C. The next president was Franklin Pierce. Perry opened up Japan to trade, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act passed, nullifying part of the Missouri Compromise. James Buchanan became the next President. The Supreme Court in Dred Scott v. Sandford declared that blacks were not citizens of the United States and could not sue. In 1857 a financial panic took place. While the sinking of the SS Central America contributed to the panic, it was actually caused by declining international trade and an over-expanded domestic economy. The recovery from this downturn took place because of production that was needed to engage in the Civil War. Prior to it Minnesota became the 32nd state the same year that the Lincoln-Douglas debates were held. In 1859 John Brown let his raid on Harper’s Ferry, and the Comstock Lode in what is now Nevada was discovered. It was notable because it generated large fortunes and made enabled the growth of Nevada and San Francisco. In 1860, Lincoln was elected President and South Carolina seceded from the Union.

The tumultuous Civil War years followed beginning in 1861 with the firing at Fort Sumter. Ten states seceded joining South Carolina to become the CSA. The First Battle of Bull Run and the Battle of Hampton Roads, a naval battle between the Monitor and Merrimack were fought during the first two years of the war. Lee commanded the Army of Northern Virginia. The Second Battle of Bull Run was followed by the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves in the Confederacy. There was rioting in New York because of the draft, and pro-Union counties of Virginia seceded to become the 35th state, West Virginia. Ulysses S. Grant was put in command of all Union forces by Lincoln. Nevada became the 36th state. Lincoln was reelected, and Sherman marched to the sea. Lee was made commander-in-chief of all CSA forces. After Richmond, Virginia was captured by Union Army troops, the Confederate Army under Lee surrendered to Grant a Appomattox. After Lincoln was assassinated, Andrew Johnson became President.

After the Civil War, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution was passed, which permanently outlawed slavery. In 1866, the Civil Rights Act passed. The KKK was founded, and Nebraska became the 37th state. Alaska was purchased from Russia, and President Andrew Johnson was impeached but acquitted by the Senate. The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified. Grant was elected President as the First Transcontinental Railroad was completed at Summit, Utah. In 1871, the Treaty of Washington was signed with the British regarding the Dominion of Canada, and in 1873 a financial panic took place that triggered a depression in Europe and North America that lasted until 1879. It resulted from post-war inflation, speculative investments mainly in railroads, a large deficit, economic dislocation in Europe because of the Franco-Prussian War, and property losses in Chicago in 1871 and Boston in 1872. In 1870 the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified. It gave blacks the right to vote. A little more than a decade later the Civil Right Act of 1875 was declared unconstitutional. In 1889 Washington was admitted as a state. In 1890 the Sherman Antitrust Act was passed, and Idaho and Wyoming were admitted as states. In the last year of the Liberty Seated Dime, 1891, there was the first showing of a Thomas A. Edison strip motion picture film in West Orange, New Jersey. Later that year Edison patented the radio. In June alternating current was transmitted for the first time in a power plant near Telluride, Colorado.

Gobrecht, the designer of the Seated Liberty series, was the third Chief Engraver at the Mint. He was born in 1785 in Hanover, Pennsylvania. His father was a German immigrant. His mother traced her ancestry to the early settlers of Plymouth, Massachusetts. He married Mary Hewes in 1818. Gobrecht was an engraver of clocks with ornamental designs in Baltimore. Later in Philadelphia, he became a banknote engraver. He worked at the Franklin Institute engraving medals. He also invented a machine that allowed one to convert a three-dimensional medal into an illustration. This was an excellent position and Gobrecht was understandably reluctant to work for the Mint for less money than he was making at the engraving firm. In order to persuade him to leave, Mint Director Robert Patterson prevailed upon Chief Engraver William Kneass, who had had a stroke, to take less in salary so more money would be available to hire Gobrecht on a permanent basis. Gobrecht did his first work for the Mint in 1826. He was an assistant to Kneass. After Kneass suffered the stroke, Gobrecht did all the die and pattern work for the Mint. In 1840 he became the Chief Engraver and served until his death in 1844. He was famous for his Liberty Seated motif, which was used for all denominations of silver coinage including the dime, quarter dollar, half dollar and silver dollar. The Trade Dollar and the 20 cent piece were also based on the Liberty Seated motif. Gobrecht also designed the Liberty Head gold eagle, the gold half eagle, the gold quarter eagle, the Liberty Head, Braided Hair half cent, and the Braided Hair cent. James B. Longacre succeeded him as Chief Engraver.

Specifications:

Varieties 1, No Stars on Obverse (1837-1838)
Weight: 2.67 grams
Composition: .900 silver, .100 copper
Diameter: 17.9 millimeters
Edge: reeded

Variety 2, Stars on Obverse (1838-1853; 1856-1860)
Weight: 2.67 grams
Composition: .900 silver, .100 copper
Diameter: 17.9 millimeters
Edge: reeded

Variety 3, Arrows at Date (1853-1855)
Weight: 2.49 grams
Composition: .900 silver, .100 copper
Diameter: 17.9 millimeters
Edge: reeded

Variety 4, Legend on Obverse (1860-1873; 1875-1891)
Weight: 2.49 grams (1860-1873); 2.50 (1873-1891)
Composition: .900 silver, .100 copper
Diameter: 17.9 millimeters
Edge: reeded

Variety 5, Legend on Obverse, Arrows at Date (1873-1874)
Weight 2.50 grams
Composition: .900 silver, .100 copper
Diameter: 17.9 millimeters
Edge: reeded



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