The first known proposal for a decimal-based coinage system in the United States was made in 1783 by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and David Rittenhouse. Hamilton, the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury, recommended the issuance of six such coins in 1791, in a report to Congress. Among the six was a silver coin, “which shall be, in weight and value, one tenth part of a silver unit or dollar.” The first dime, the Draped Bust, appeared in 1796, and gave no indication as to its face value. The Draped Bust went through a number of redesigns and eventually gave way to the Capped Bust dime in 1809. This issue included the denomination “10 C” on the lower reverse; it was sporadically minted until 1820, when production took place every year except 1826. In 1837, production of the design ceased.
In 1837, the Liberty Seated dime debuted. There were several varieties during its 54-year run. Arrows at the date in 1853 and 1873 indicated changes made in the coin’s mass (from 2.67 grams to 2.49 grams in 1853, then to 2.50 grams in 1873. This produced the greatest rarities in the Liberty Seated dime series: the 1873 and 1874 Carson City dimes with arrows, and the unique 1873 Carson City Dime without arrows. This series ended in 1891.
The Barber dime (named after its designer, Charles Barber) appeared from 1892 to 1916. This type boasts one of the classic American rarities, the 1894-S Dime. Twenty-four were minted and currently nine are known.
Most commonly referred to as the Mercury dime, the Winged Liberty dime ran from 1916 to 1945. The head is actually a depiction of Liberty wearing a cap with small wings at the ears, evocative of the god Mercury, and is intended to symbolize freedom of thought.
In 1946, the U.S. memorialized President Franklin Delano Roosevelt by creating a dime in his honor, a design that has remained until today.
With the passage of the Coinage Act of 1965, the composition of the dime changed from 90% silver to “clad,” consisting of copper and nickel alloys over a pure copper center.