Barber Dimes

The Barber Dime was introduced in 1892, replacing the Seated Liberty design, which had been in use for almost 55 years. The new series was named for its designer Charles E. Barber, chief engraver of the United States Mint from 1880 to 1918. While Barber Dimes do not enjoy the popularity of some other coin series of the era, it can be a genuine challenge to assemble a collection in higher mint state grades. The series includes several lower mintage issues, as well as the famous 1894-S Dime, which had just 24 coins produced.

Mint director James P. Kimball had recommended a change in the designs of the silver coins as early as 1887. In his annual report, he mentioned that the United States citizens generally did not consider the nations coinage to be “an expression of art of their time”. However, he did not pursue an immediate change in design. Rather, drafted a bill which would authorize changes to the devices of circulating coinage at any time after a minimum period of 25 years. He did so due to an unclear line in the revised Mint statutes of 1873 and 1874, which stated, “…when new coins or devices are authorized…” This line had led him to believe that Congress had to authorize all changes in the designs of circulating coinage.

After the bill passed in late 1890, a panel of leading artists and sculptors was created to assist in the creation of the designs for the new coinage. The panel failed to make any satisfactory suggestions, so a public competition opened, which yielded about 300 entries. Once again none of the entries proved satisfactory, so Charles Barber appointed to create the new designs. It should be noted that Barber had been a member of the panel in charge of judging public entries and the entire time it seemed to be his aim to create the designs himself.

The new design for the so-called Barber Dimes featured the bust of Liberty, facing right. She wears a Phrygian cap, with the word LIBERTY inscribed on the headband and an olive branch with thirteen leaves attached. The words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA appear in a circle around the edge, and the date is positioned under the truncation of the neck. The reverse of the coin featured an agricultural wreath, composed of corn, wheat and oak leaves, with the denomination ONE DIME inscribed within.

The Barber Dime would be issued until 1916, when it was replaced by the Mercury Dime. This series featured a design by Adolph A. Weinman, which was considerably more well received by the public and remains one of the most popular U.S. coin series to collect.