Earlier today, I had some spare time coming back from a movie, and an odd antique shop passed in front of me. I quickly found a parking space, eager to get inside, hopeful of what I might find. When I got in there, it was basically any other antique shop, filled with old stuff people want enormous amounts for, except one display case. This display case, owned by my favorite coin dealers, had an absolutely great deal on seated liberty dimes. Six dollars a piece, all of them could easily grade above G-4, not the most attractive, but definitely the cheapest. I bought all they had. This selection included two 1853 with rays, an 1852, an 1842, and a common 1883. If you like this classic design from the 1800's, or you aren't familiar, here are some facts about these wonderful pieces of history.
Obverse Without Stars
This variety was minted in 1837 and 1838. Both of these years were minted in the mid thousands. A great start to the great engraver Gobrecht's career, and the designer Sully's career. Miss liberty's shield is tilted.
This variety also includes a sub-variety, drapery from the elbow, and no drapery. Minted between 1838-1860, this was a fairly short time before changes were made. As ten cents was the usual find in American's pockets in an economic depression, they had a lot of time to look at these dimes. Looking at the seated liberty design not only came from the dime, but almost every denomination between half-dimes, and dollars. The entire mintage of this variety totals about 51 million.
After the gold rush in San Francisco, the amount of gold upset the balance between silver and gold, causing silver prices to rise substantially. The dime was now worth intrinsically more than face value. A story that has happened several times in America's history. To stop the melting of vast amounts of coinage, the obverse date was placed between two arrows to signify a weight change. These pieces aren't very rare, but were minted only between 1853 and 1855.
After becoming used to the weight change in coinage, the mint dropped the arrows around the date. Instead they made a very clear change about the obverse, and reverse. Minted between 1860 and 1891, this was the longest running variety of seated liberty dimes. The stars on the obverse were replaced by UNITED STATES of AMERICA, leaving a lot of room on the reverse. With a quick change, this space was allotted with an even bigger wreath than before. Over 175 million pieces of this variety were struck, and minted at four different facilities. Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Carson City.
Although a very popular design to American's at that time, there was a few problems. The design was to shallow, and many die defects appeared. Many people tried to change the depth of the coin, but that was abolished. Very fun to collect, these varieties show a young nation's past in times of trouble, change, and relief.