Composition and Specifications

Under the Coinage Act of 1792, the Draped Bust Dimes were struck from a composition of silver (89.24%) and copper (10.76%) weighing 2.70 grams (41.67 grains). Both the weight and fineness of individual examples can vary slightly.  All coins were struck with a reeded edge and have a diameter of 19 millimeters.

Because the diameter of the dime was very similar to the diameter of the quarter eagle at 20 millimeters, the Mint commonly used the reverse dies of the heraldic eagle design to also strike quarter eagles. This has led to the interesting situation that numismatic researchers have now determined the striking order of coins for both denominations. It was discovered that some dies switched denominations multiple times, as the dies slowly degraded and began showing cracks and breaks. This study of die states and varieties is an ongoing process, and collecting them has become increasingly popular, although it remains challenging due to the rarity of some issues and individual varieties.

Production quality of Draped Bust Dimes varies widely, although most are weakly struck in at least one area of the coin, but usually more. The centers are notoriously known for their weakness, while the obverse stars are also to be watched. The striking quality of these early American coins varies with each die variety, and a weakly struck example of one die variety, might be a relatively sharply struck variety of another.

When selecting premium quality pieces for a type collection, the quality of the surfaces is important. Many Draped Bust Dimes have been cleaned, while others were bent and straightened, or otherwise damaged. Obtaining a high quality example in circulated condition, with original problem free surfaces and excellent eye appeal might require a significant amount of searching. When found however, it should prove to be an ideal investment, and a conversation piece which reflects early American history at its best.