Capped Bust Dime
The Capped Bust Dime was designed by Mint Assistant Engraver John Reich.
The Capped Bust dime was introduced in 1809. But it had a sputtering start, being struck only four times in its first eleven years: 1809, 1811, 1814 and 1820. From 1820, however, it was struck on a consistent basis, until it was replaced by the Seated Liberty dime mid-way through 1837. One of the great things about the Classic Bust dime series, is that it gives the budget-minded collector an opportunity to obtain an early U.S. silver coin, at least one that was circulating during Thomas Jefferson’s lifetime.
Early U.S. silver coins. They’re historical. They’re scarce. They’re sought-after. They’re for the advanced or “serious” collector. They’re expensive! All true – in a general sense. Also, generally speaking, “early U.S. silver” would be the Flowing Hair or Draped Bust type half dimes, dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollars. In other words, they would be U.S. silver coins struck between 1794 and 1807. All these coins are indeed expensive, “expensive” being a relative term, as always. Your best bet for 1794-1807 U.S. silver would be either an 1803-07 Draped Bust half dollar or an 1805-07 Draped Bust quarter, both of which cost $200-$250 in average circulated condition as of this writing.
There are, however, a couple of viable early U.S. silver alternatives in the Capped Bust dime series.. If you’re willing to at least include the years 1809-20 in your Early U.S. time frame, then you have a few more affordable and obtainable options for your early U.S. coin collection. Using the Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, King George III triad as your barometer – all were still alive in 1820 – you might consider 1820 and before as “early” U.S. Capped Bust silver coins are certainly more affordable and obtainable than the earlier Draped Bust and Flowing Hair silver coin types. Let’s discuss two Capped Bust silver coins in particular: the 1814 and 1820 Capped Bust dimes.
What about the Capped Bust dimes struck in 1809 and 1811? Yes, they fall within that rough “Early U.S” period, but both are pretty scarce, with mintages of 51,065 and 65,180 respectively. The 1809 retails $150 in Good, while the 1811 retails $90 in Good. Also, you may be asking, “What about the dimes struck 1815 to 1819?” There were no dimes struck during those years. Remember, a combination of factors resulted in the scarce and sporadic minting of U.S. dimes in the early 1800's: an influx of Spanish silver coins into this country, as well as the nasty U.S. Mint fire that occurred in the first month of 1816!
Of the two dates we’ll be discussing, I think the 1814 Bust dime is a good deal more desirable. And it’s not JUST because the 1814 dime is obviously older than the 1820 dime. More to the point, the 1814 Bust dime is scarcer– mintage for the 1814 dime is 421,500 while 942,587 dimes were struck with an 1820 date. In my opinion, however, it’s not just a matter of age and scarcity. Two key factors truly weigh heavier in favor of the 1814 Bust dime: history and its favorable scarcity/value ratio.
First, we’ll take a look at the history aspect. With the 1814 Bust dime you get a coin struck in the early part of the 1810's, thus making the 1814 dime an even stronger candidate for “early” U.S. coin status. In fact, there is a good-sized segment of the numismatic community that views the year 1815– not 1820, not 1830– as the cut-off year for the title of “early” U.S. coin. That view is mainly based on the large cents: the last “early” large cent, the Classic Head type, was struck in 1814, while the first non-early or “classic” large cent, the Coronet Head type, was struck in 1816. Personally, I still prefer my “Jefferson-Adams-George III” barometer, but then.. oh, well. In any event, the 1814 Capped Bust dime does indeed make the cut according to a very widely-held numismatic definition of “Early U.S. Coin.”
I like the 1814 Capped Bust Dime for another reason– it’s a War Of 1812 coin! Yes, the War Of 1812 actually lasted until 1815, the year American troops, fighting under General Andrew Jackson, defeated the British at the Battle Of New Orleans. It was a great victory for the Americans, but unnecessary. “Old Hickory,” Andrew Jackson, had not yet received the news that the Treaty Of Ghent had already been signed! But 1814 was a pivotal year in that conflict. In the year of 1814 the British advanced on Washington D.C. Nothing stood in their way, since the American forces had fled before the much-stronger British forces. Washington D.C was put to the torch! Fortunately though, the wife of President James Madison, Dolly Madison, saved many White House art treasures before she, her husband, and the rest of the government officials fled the city! Yet the British forces and their destruction of the city came to an abrupt halt courtesy of a rare hurricane, followed by an even rarer tornado! The British troops were decimated! A fiction writer would lose all credibility if he/she made this stuff up!
The year of 1814 is notable for another War Of 1812 episode. From aboard a ship in the harbor, a certain Francis Scott Key watched as British forces bombarded U.S. defenses at Fort McHenry in Baltimore. The shelling continued all through the night, yet the next morning, Scott Key saw that the American flag still flew over the fort! Inspired by the glorious sight, Francis Scott Key penned the lyrics to a little song called, “The Star Spangled Banner!”
Historically speaking, the year 1820 is nothing to sneeze at either. True, that particular date in U.S. history doesn’t have the eye-catching headlines of the sort you saw in 1814. Still, it was the year that King George III of England (certainly a pivotal figure in American history) died. It was also in 1820 that the “Missouri Compromise” legislation prohibited slavery above a certain latitude and longitude in the United States. A result of the Missouri Compromise was that Maine entered the Union as a free state, while Missouri entered as a slave state in 1821. Also in 1820, the American Colonization Society sent 88 free blacks to settle Liberia in Africa.
Ok, in terms of historical value, it’s my opinion that an 1814 dime beats an 1820 dime. Now let’s discuss the afore-mentioned scarcity/value ratio. As far as scarcity, we already know the 1814 Capped Bust dime is harder to find than the 1820– in fact, the mintage of the 1814 dime is less than half that of the 1820 dime. Yet, as of this writing, the value of the 1814 dime in Good condition is $30, while the value of an 1820 dime in the same condition is $25. In Very Good condition, the 1814 dime is valued at only $40 while the 1820 dime is valued at $35. That’s just a $5 difference! Clearly, the 1814 Bust dime HAS to be the better value. But even that little mintage/value comparison doesn’t tell the whole story.
The mintage for the 1814 Capped Bust dime may be a good deal lower than that of the 1820 Capped Bust dime, still, there were some 421,000 1814 dimes struck. That shouldn’t make it a particularly rare coin. Relatively scarce, perhaps. From my observations, however, the 1814 Bust dime seems to be a good deal harder to find than even its mintage of just under half a million would indicate. Do the eBay test. Do a search on 1820 Bust dimes. You should find at least a small selection of them up for bid. But some weeks, not a single 1814 Bust dime is listed! Not even the quite scarce and sought-after 1793 U.S. Chain cent can make THAT claim! In short, it would seem that the 1820 Bust dime is a bit over-valued. Or the 1814 Bust dime is blatantly UNDER-valued. I believe it’s the latter.
As for the other dates in the Capped Bust dime series, only the 1822 date is significantly scarce: just 100,000 were struck, but its retail price of $425 in Good is an indication that very few of those 100,000 have survived to this day. The other dates in the Capped Bust dime series are pretty consistent, retailing around $26-$30 in Good, $65-$75 in Fine. Some varieties go a bit higher than that, such as the 1829 with the “very large 10C”.
In fact, the Capped Bust dime can be divided into two eras: the large size and the small size. Actually both Capped Bust dime types are pretty close in size, but the 1809-27 issues are a bit larger at 18.8 mm. than the 1828 through 1837 dimes at 18.5 mm.
In the twenty years the Capped Bust dime was struck (not to be confused with its 29 years of existence since no dimes were issued years 1810, 1812, 1813, 1815, 1816, 1817, 1818, 1819 and 1826) only four dates have mintages of more than 1 million, with the highest mintage being the 1835 date with only 1.4 million struck. Add to that the fact that most Capped Bust dimes circulated quite a bit, you have a coin that’s fairly scarce to find in any grade, much less better grades of Fine or better.
Key things to look for when evaluating condition: the better Capped Bust dimes will have some facial detail, hair curl detail, a readable “LIBERTY” in the cap band, and feather detail on the reverse eagle. Of course, you want the legends and date to be full, easily read. Of particular interest as bargains would be Capped Bust dimes in Fine condition, as even dates from the early 1820's only retail $55-$60 in Fine, while the more common 1829-37 dates retail only $38-$40 in Fine. It’s the earliest U.S. dime that you can add to your collection in a nice circulated grade, and with a low, two-digit price tag!