What does a dime look like? If you’ve ever wondered what a dime looks like up close or need a detailed description of this coin’s size, thickness, weight, images, and other specifications, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading for a comprehensive visual guide to the humble dime.

If you’re short on time, here are the key things to know about a dime: it’s a small silver-colored coin worth 10 cents that is 0.053 inches thick and 0.705 inches in diameter. The obverse side features a profile of President Franklin D. Roosevelt while the reverse depicts a torch surrounded by an olive branch.

In this guide, we will cover everything you could want to know about the appearance of a dime. You’ll learn about the dime’s size, weight, color, thickness, images of both sides, details on the coin’s engraving and lettering, how to spot fakes or errors, and more.

The Dimensions and Specifications of a Dime

Diameter and Thickness

The diameter of a dime is 17.91 mm, which converts to around 0.705 inches. This small size makes dimes very convenient to carry around and use for transactions. The thickness of a standard dime is 1.35 mm, which equals 0.053 inches.

This slim profile allows dimes to be easily stacked and rolled in mass quantities. Dimes have kept the exact same dimensions since they were first minted back in 1796.

Weight and Composition

Modern dimes contain an exterior cladding of 75% copper and 25% nickel, with a pure copper core. This combination gives dimes a total weight of 2.268 grams. The weight and size specifications are precisely controlled by the U.S. Mint to ensure accuracy and consistency in large batches of coin production.

These strict quality control standards are why most dimes in circulation have nearly indistinguishable wear and tear over many years of use.

Over the long history of dime production, other material compositions have been used as well. For example, silver dimes were produced from 1796 to 1964. These coins had 90% silver content and 10% copper, with no nickel.

The higher precious metal content gave these dimes a total weight of around 2.5 grams. Silver dimes are no longer produced because their intrinsic value would far outweigh their face value today.

The obverse (head side) of the Dime

Portrait of Roosevelt

The obverse side of the dime features a profile portrait of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This design was created by Chief Engraver John R. Sinnock and has appeared on the dime since 1946, the year after FDR’s death.

Sinnock chose to depict Roosevelt in a jaunty, optimistic manner which reflects FDR’s upbeat spirit and leadership during difficult times like the Great Depression and World War II.

The portrait itself shows Roosevelt facing left in a 3/4 perspective, with a hint of a smile on his lips. He wears pince-nez glasses and his hair is swept back stylishly. The use of sharp, clean lines and spacing gives FDR a dashing, handsome look.

Sinnock took care to capture the strength and warmth of Roosevelt’s countenance. This enduring design has graced the dime for over 75 years and is instantly recognizable to millions of Americans.

Inscriptions and Lettering

Encircling the portrait on the obverse are the inscriptions “LIBERTY” above FDR and “IN GOD WE TRUST” to the right of him. To the left of the portrait is the national motto “E Pluribus Unum” which means “Out of Many, One” in Latin.

This refers poetically to the union of U.S. states and people to form one great nation.

On the lower rim, the legend reads “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.” The mint mark denoting where the dime was struck also appears on the lower rim, either near the E in “ONE” if struck in Philadelphia or below the E if struck at San Francisco, Denver, or West Point.

All lettering, digits, and mottos have a stately, elegant look.

The balance between Roosevelt’s historic portrait and the inspiring inscriptions/legends makes the obverse side of the dime a patriotic work of medallic art in a small circular form. It’s amazing how much symbolic detail can fit on a tiny 10-cent U.S. coin! 

The Reverse (tail side) of the Dime

The Torch and Olive Branch Design

The reverse side of the dime features a torch surrounded by an olive branch on both sides. This iconic design symbolizes liberty and peace. According to the U.S. Mint, the torch represents “liberty and enlightenment” while the olive branches signify “peace and prosperity.”

This classic motif was created by Chief Engraver John R. Sinnock and first appeared on the Mercury dime in 1916. Later, it was carried over to the Roosevelt dime when it was introduced in 1946. Over a century later, the torch and olive branch design remains a hallmark of the American dime.

Inscriptions and Lettering

The inscriptions and lettering on the reverse side of the dime have gone through a few changes over the years. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Above the central design are the words “United States of America.” This inscription has appeared on every U.S. dime since 1946.
  • At the bottom rim of the coin is the text “One Dime.” Older dimes read “One Dime” on two lines, while those minted after 1964 display it on a single line.
  • The mint mark indicating where the dime was struck is located at roughly the 6 o’clock position, just below the olive branches. Dimes may bear one of four mint marks: “no mint mark” (Philadelphia), “D” (Denver), “S” (San Francisco), or “W” (West Point).
  • Look closely below the torch and you may spot the designer’s initials. On dimes made since 1968, the tiny letters “JS” represent Chief Engraver John Sinnock. Prior dimes bore the initials of other mint engravers.

So in short, key inscriptions on the back of a dime include “The United States of America,” “One Dime,” the mint mark, and sometimes the designer’s initials. The style and placement of the lettering have evolved somewhat, but retain familiar and patriotic American iconography.

How to Spot Fake or Defective Dimes

Looking for Improper Text or Images

Genuine dimes should have the same text and images on them, like the words “Liberty” and “In God We Trust.” If you see unfamiliar or misspelled words, then it’s likely a counterfeit. Examine both sides carefully under a magnifying glass or microscope if needed.

The details on a real dime, like Lady Liberty’s hair and the torch, should be crisp and clear. Blurry or missing details are red flags.

Checking Weight and Thickness

An easy way to test if a dime is real is by its weight and thickness. Authentic dimes weigh exactly 2.268 grams. You can use a precision scale to check. A real dime is also 1.35mm thick. Use calipers to accurately measure.

If the dime differs too much in either metric, then it’s probably fake or has been altered in some way. Over 28 million fake dimes were produced in 2014 alone! So it pays to give your coins a closer inspection.

Inspecting the Coin’s Edge

Take a good look at the coin’s outer edge or “rim.” On real dimes, the edge should be completely smooth with no bumps, cracks, or extra markings. Counterfeits often have poor metal quality, resulting in rough or wavy edges. Examine the edge for any defects or irregularities, which point to a fake.

The edge should also be perfectly round all the way through. An uneven shape means the coin is not authentic.

You can find detailed images of genuine dimes on reputable sites like the U.S. Mint’s dime page to compare to as well. With practice, spotting fake dimes becomes quick and easy! Just remember to check the words and images, weight, thickness, and edge for any discrepancies.

Images and Visual Guide to the Dime

The modern dime has a diameter of 17.91 mm and a thickness of 1.35 mm. It weighs 2.268 grams. The dime depicts the profile portrait of President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the obverse (front) and a torch surrounded by an olive branch on the reverse (back).

Key Features

Here are some of the main visual features to look for when identifying a dime:

  • The portrait of FDR on the obverse
  • The inscriptions “LIBERTY” and “IN GOD WE TRUST” frame FDR’s portrait
  • The central torch and olive branch design on the reverse
  • The inscriptions “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and “ONE DIME” on the reverse
  • The mint mark below the torch (P, D, S or W)
  • The reeded edge of the coin with 118 reeds
  • The copper-nickel-clad composition with a silver-colored center core

These are the main visual identifiers to look for when determining if a coin is a dime. Comparing images of a dime to an unknown coin will allow for identification. All key features should match for a definitive match as a dime.


Here are some photos of dimes to match the visual features described:

Obverse (Heads Side) Reverse (Tails Side)
Obverse of dime with portrait of FDR Reverse of dime with torch and olive branch design

What Does A Dime Look Like – Conclusion

Now that you’ve reached the end of this guide, you should have a complete visual understanding of the humble dime coin. You learned about its key specifications like size and weight as well as details on the engraving, lettering, and images on both the obverse and reverse.

If you ever need to describe a dime, spot counterfeits, or simply want to admire this coin, refer back to this illustrated manual. Don’t hesitate to share with any friends or family who ask that perennial question: what does a dime look like?

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