The dime, in United States usage, is a ten-cent coin (10¢), one tenth of a United States dollar, labelled formally as "one dime". The word dime comes from the Old French disme (now dîme), meaning "tithe" or "tenth part", from the Latin decima [pars]. In the past prices have occasionally been quoted on signage and other materials in terms of dimes, abbreviated as "d" or a lowercase "d" with a slash through it (đ) as with the cent and mill signs. After the half dime became five cents in 1873, the dime is now the only United States coin in general circulation that is not denominated in terms of dollars or cents.
After the initial issue of the "Draped Bust" type (1796 - 1807), a second Capped Bust obverse was used until 1837. In 1837, the type was replaced by the Seated Liberty type, and composition was changed to 90% silver and 10% copper. The diameter was slightly increased to 17.9 mm.
The weight was 2.67 grams initially, then was reduced to 2.49 grams in 1853. All silver denominations changed again after the Mint Act of 1873 which, in an attempt to make U.S. coinage the currency of the world, added a small amount of mass to the dime, quarter, and half-dollar to bring their weights in line with fractions of the French 5-franc piece. The change also ensured the quarter dollar (which is valued 2.5 times the dime) weighed 2.5 times the dime (6.25 g), and the half dollar (twice the value of the quarter dollar) weighed twice what the quarter dollar weighed (12.5 g). In this way, a specific weight of these coins, no matter the mixture of denominations, would always be worth the same. This relation in weight and value continued in the cupro-nickel coins from 1965 on. In both instances, the change in weight was indicated on the coins by having arrow heads on both sides of the date. The arrows stayed in the design from 1853 to 1855 and again in 1873 and 1874, and were then removed (later coins stayed with their new weight). A similar design change was also implemented on the half dime, quarter dollar and half dollar coins.
The Seated Liberty portrait designs appeared on most regular-issue silver United States coinage from 1836 through 1891. The denominations which feature the Goddess of Liberty in a Seated Liberty design include the half dime, the dime, the quarter, the half dollar, and until 1873 the silver dollar, as well as the short-lived twenty cent piece. The obverse shows Liberty seated on a rock, holding a pole with a Liberty cap on it and supporting a shield. On the reverse, the denomination is spelled as ONE DIME, unlike on earlier types.
In 1892, the type was replaced by the Liberty Head design (known as the Barber Dime). In later years, there were also changes in size and composition (the dime is now smaller and made of copper-nickel), but these coins have never been demonetised and are still legal tender. This, of course, is of academic interest only, as their numismatic value is enormously higher than their face value.
The obverse of the coin shows the symbolic figure of Liberty clad in a flowing dress and seated upon a rock. In her left hand, she holds a Liberty pole surmounted by a Phrygian cap (a type of cap which in Ancient Rome was worn by freed slaves). With her right hand, she supports the Union Shield, which has thirteen vertical stripes, white and red, with a blue horizontal bar on top. The colours are represented by heraldic hatching (thin lines indicating the colour - horizontal stripes for blue, vertical for red, no stripes for white). Across the shield, a diagonal banner inscribed with the word LIBERTY.
During 1840, the design was slightly modified with additional drapery of Liberty's dress, flowing down from her left elbow.
Between 1838 and 1859, there were thirteen stars around above representing the 13 original states. In 1860 and later, the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA instead.
In the exergue below the figure, the date of issue: [year]. Between 1853 and 1855 and in 1873-1874, arrows on both sides of the date indicate a reduction and later increase in the weight of the denomination.
The rim is beaded.