What is 1 dime? A dime may seem insignificant, but its history and buying power reveal much about the US economy over the past two centuries. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: 1 dime is a US coin worth 10 cents, or one-tenth of a US dollar.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about the 10-cent coin known as the dime. We’ll cover the dime’s history, dimensions, composition, and buying power over time. We’ll also compare the dime to similar world coins and look at some fun facts and trivia about this iconic piece of US currency.

Origins and History of the Dime

Introduction of the Dime in 1796

The dime was first introduced in the United States in 1796, as part of the Coinage Act. This authorized a decimal system for US currency, with the dime being one-tenth of a dollar. The need for a smaller denomination coin became apparent as prices dropped in the struggling early economy.

The first dimes were made of 89.24% silver and 10.76% copper, had a diameter of 20.8 mm, and featured Lady Liberty on the obverse.

Changing Compositions Over the Years

The composition of the dime has undergone some key changes over the years. From 1837-1873, the amount of silver was reduced to 90% with 10% copper. However, silver shortages later caused the composition to be changed again – first to 90% silver and 10% nickel from 1873-1964.

After 1964, with silver supplies exhausted, dimes transitioned to being made up of outer layers of 75% copper and 25% nickel, with an inner core of pure copper.

Interestingly, a few key years for the dime featured special commemorative designs on the reverse, 1915-1945 (Mercury Head), and 1946-1964 (Roosevelt).

Key Design Changes To the Dime

Lady Liberty was featured on the obverse side of the dime from 1796 to 1909 – with some minor design changes such as to her bust and drapery. However, in 1916 a radical redesign occurred led by sculptor Adolph A. Weinman.

His iconic Mercury Head depiction replaced Lady Liberty with a Winged Liberty Head wearing a Phrygian cap.

The most familiar and long-lasting dime design began in 1946 when Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first real person depicted on a US coin. Sculptor John R. Sinnock created an iconic left-facing bust of Roosevelt, who had recently passed away.

This design has continued uninterrupted until today, with periodic modifications such as for higher relief strikes in 1992.

Specifications of the Modern Dime

Dimensions and Weight

The current dime has a diameter of 17.91 mm and a thickness of 1.35 mm. These dimensions make the dime the thinnest of all currently circulating U.S. coins. Despite its small size, the coin still has some heft to it with a weight of 2.268 grams.

Current Composition

Since 1965, the dime has been made of a clad material consisting of a pure copper core layered between 0.75 mm of 75% copper and 25% nickel alloy on each side. This gives the coin a distinctive color and shine. The coin’s outer layers account for around 91.67% of its weight.

This clad composition was introduced in 1965 to replace the previous 90% silver composition. The change has meant that the current dime has no intrinsic precious metal value, with its face value determined solely by its status as legal tender.

Edge Lettering and Other Details

The dime features 118 ridges around its edge. Between each pair of ridges is the word “ONE DIME” followed by 13 five-pointed stars. This reeded edge with edge lettering helps distinguish the coin from potential counterfeits.

The obverse (front) design depicts a bust of Lady Liberty wearing a cap with the motto “LIBERTY” inscribed. The reverse features a torch surrounded by an olive branch symbolizing peace and 13 stars representing the original 13 colonies.

The words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and “E PLURIBUS UNUM” frame the primary design on this side.

Buying Power and Purchasing Value of a Dime

Peak Historic Buying Power

During the early 20th century, a single dime had impressive buying power, allowing people to purchase many common goods. In the 1920s for example, you could buy a loaf of bread for just 10 cents. Other items within reach included a bottle of milk, a dozen eggs, or a pound of bacon.

The dime’s strong purchasing value made it a meaningful unit of currency in everyday transactions.

Declining Purchasing Value Due to Inflation

Over the decades, however, the dime has lost buying power due to inflation. By 2022, cumulative inflation since 1920 made the dime worth just $1.61. Food prices saw especially sharp increases. A loaf of bread that cost 10 cents in 1920 would cost $3.44 in 2022 dollars.

The same declining value holds for other goods. This steady erosion of purchasing power means the dime simply cannot buy what it used to.

What You Can Buy With a Dime Today

These days, there are still some small items or services you can purchase with a lowly dime:

  • 2-5 minutes of parking at a meter in certain cities
  • 1 rounded teaspoon of herb or spice seeds
  • A single piece of bulk penny candy
  • About one minute of song streaming from iTunes or Spotify
  • 60 seconds of long-distance calling on Skype

While its buying power has dropped enormously over the past century, the humble dime retains at least symbolic value for minor purchases. With over 4.9 billion still in circulation, this durable coin continues to facilitate small, everyday transactions over 100 years since its first minting.

Dimes Around the World – Similar Coins

10 Cent Euro Coin

The 10-cent euro coin is very similar in size, shape and value to the US dime. Introduced in 2002 with the rollout of euro coins and banknotes, the 10-cent euro coin has a value of 1/10th of a euro, just as a dime is worth 1/10th of a US dollar.

The 10-cent euro coin is composed of Nordic gold, an alloy of 89% copper, 5% aluminum, 5% zinc and 1% tin. It has a diameter of 19.75 mm, a thickness of 1.93 mm, and weighs 4.10 grams.

The 10-cent euro enjoys widespread circulation throughout the 19 countries currently within the eurozone. As of 2022, around 131 billion 10-cent euro coins were in circulation. The 10-cent coin features a map of Europe on one side to symbolize unity.

10 Cent Coins in Canada and Australia

Both Canada and Australia also have their own 10-cent coins used as 1/10th denomination currency units. The current 10-cent coin in Canada is composed primarily of steel with a thin plating of copper-nickel alloy. It has a diameter of 18.03 mm and weighs 1.75 grams.

The 10-cent coin in Australia underwent a transition in 2006 from a silver alloy composition to an aluminum-bronze one similar to the Canadian 10-cent piece. Australia’s 10-cent coin has a smooth edge and scalloped shape.

Other World Coins of Equivalent Value

Several other countries around the globe issue coins that are extremely close to a US dime in their size and purchasing power or value. For example:

  • The Mexican 10-centavo coin has almost the exact same dimensions and metal composition as a dime
  • The Costa Rican 10 colones coin is valued at around 1/10th of a US dollar
  • South Africa’s 10-cent coin has a very similar size and value to a dime
  • The 10 fils coin used in Bahrain and other countries nearby is worth about a dime

So while the dime is distinctly American, many equivalent small denomination coins exist worldwide for fractional currency needs.

Fun Facts and Trivia About the Dime

Why It’s Called a ‘Dime’

The ten-cent coin earned its nickname because it is one-tenth of a dollar. Its formal name is the “One Dime Coin,” but Americans began calling it a “dime” for short. In the early 1800s, dimes were also known as “dismes,” derived from the French word “dîme” meaning tithe or tenth part.

But the “dime” moniker stuck due to its simplicity. The word dime comes from the Old French “dîme” meaning “tithe” or “tenth part.”

The ‘Mercury’ Dime Controversy

The Mercury dime was issued from 1916 to 1945. But it does not depict the Roman god Mercury. The obverse image is a depiction of Liberty wearing a winged cap, leading to confusion with the Roman god Mercury who also wore a winged cap.

Controversy arose over whether the image was too provocative, as Liberty appears with bare breasts and a Phrygian cap typically worn by freed slaves. Despite some public criticism, the coin went on to become very popular and well-recognized.

The Rare 1894-S Dime

Only 24 1894-S dimes were ever minted at the San Francisco Mint. Nine are known to still exist, with one selling at auction in 2016 for over $2 million, making it one of the most valuable dimes in the world.

According to legend, the 1894-S dimes were surreptitiously minted by a mint employee named Frank Leach. Leach supposedly gave out the coins to friends and kept one for his daughter. The incredibly low mintage and intriguing backstory have made the 1894-S a holy grail item for serious coin collectors.

Here are some other fascinating dime facts:

  • Dimes have depicted both Republican and Democratic leaders, including Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower.
  • The current Roosevelt dime has the longest running design in U.S. coins, remaining largely unchanged since 1946.
  • The word “In God We Trust” began appearing on all circulating U.S. coin denominations in 1866, including the dime.
  • A small number of dimes were made from silver during WWII to preserve copper for military use.
Year Dime Fact
1892 The first commemorative coin from the U.S Mint was a half dollar, honoring Christopher Columbus. Soon after, a silver dime honoring Columbus was created.
1946 The Roosevelt dime was released only months after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death in 1945.
1964 The last 90% silver dimes were issued this year. From 1965 onward, dimes used copper-nickel clads instead.

From its fascinating origins to rare dates that fetch stunning auction prices, the modest dime has an outsized history. Hopefully, you’ve found some intriguing fun facts and trivia tidbits to appreciate this iconic small denomination coin!

What Is 1 Dime – Conclusion

In conclusion, while the dime may seem tiny and insignificant compared to other US coinage, it has a rich history and plays an important role in commerce. Understanding what a dime is in terms of origins, dimensions, composition, and buying power gives insight into the wider US monetary system.

So next time you have a dime in your pocket or get one back as change, take a closer look. That unassuming little coin has over 200 years of history behind it!

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