Who is on the dime coin? If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The current dime features Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States. He is shown in profile, facing left.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the complete history of the US dime coin. You’ll learn about the origins of the dime, why Roosevelt came to be featured on the coin, the meaning behind its design elements, and much more.
A Brief History of the Dime Coin
Creation of the dime denomination
The dime coin was authorized by the Coinage Act of 1792, which established the US Mint and authorized silver coins in denominations of half dime, dime, quarter dollar, half dollar, and dollar. However, the first official dimes were not struck until 1796.
These early dimes contained 89.24% silver and 10.76% copper and were about the size of a modern U.S. quarter dollar.
The name “dime” comes from the French word “dîme” meaning “tithe” or “tenth part”, referencing the fact that the dime is equal to one-tenth of a dollar. Over the years, the silver content in dimes has decreased while the overall size and weight have remained fairly consistent.
Evolution of dime coin designs over the years
There have been several iconic designs featured on US dimes over the last 200+ years. Some of the most popular include:
- The Seated Liberty design by Christian Gobrecht used from 1837-1891
- The Barber or Liberty Head dime was designed by Charles Barber and used from 1892-1916
- The beloved Winged Liberty Head “Mercury” dime was designed by famed sculptor Adolph Weinman and used from 1916 to 1945.
- The Roosevelt dime bearing the image of President FDR was created by John R. Sinnock and in use since 1946.
In more recent years, special commemorative designs representing important events, social causes, or notable Americans have appeared for limited runs. For example, in 2022, the US Mint released five special the American Women Quarters Program.
The modern dime has kept pace with technological anti-counterfeiting changes as well, now bearing microscopic lettering, reeding along the rim, and special digital markers to deter counterfeiters. But its iconic size, weight, and value remain locked into the American economy and culture.
Why FDR Is on the Dime
Tribute to FDR shortly after his death
Not long after President Franklin D. Roosevelt died in 1945, legislation was introduced in Congress to honor his legacy by putting his image on the American dime. This was seen as a fitting tribute, as FDR had founded the March of Dimes organization in 1938 to fund research to fight the crippling disease polio, which he had contracted as an adult.
On August 8, 1946, a bill directing the U.S. Mint to place FDR’s likeness on the dime passed Congress with widespread bipartisan support. This was a remarkably rapid action to honor a deceased president.
Mint Director Nellie Tayloe Ross, the first woman to hold that position, worked closely with FDR’s son James to select an appropriate portrait to use based on his life and legacy.
Symbolic meaning behind depicting FDR
Beyond honoring his leadership through economic turmoil and war, putting FDR on the dime was symbolically significant. He was America’s longest-serving president, elected to four terms before passing away early in his fourth term.
The dime would serve as an enduring reminder of FDR’s vision to aid the poor and downtrodden through government programs and services funded by taxpayer dimes.
In the over 75 years since FDR’s constant presence on the 10-cent piece has continually exposed generations of Americans to his commanding yet kindly visage. It serves as a subtle inspiration, reminding people of FDR’s determination to recover from personal health struggles and lead the country through dark times.
He symbolizes American perseverance and resilience, values he lived by.
Breakdown of Current Dime Design
Obverse (front) design elements
The obverse side of the dime features a profile portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This design element has appeared on the dime since 1946, the year after FDR’s death. The portrait was designed by John R. Sinnock, the 8th Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint from 1925 to 1947.
Sinnock chose to depict FDR in a forward-facing profile, which differs from the left-facing profiles traditionally used on coins. This forward-facing portrait is said to reflect FDR’s forward-looking leadership during his presidency.
Other elements on the obverse include the motto “LIBERTY” inscribed along the rim above FDR’s portrait, which has appeared on coins since the early 19th century. Below the portrait is Sinnock’s small initial “JS”. The date of minting appears below this to the right.
Along the base of FDR’s neck is the national motto “IN GOD WE TRUST”, which Congress mandated must appear on all U.S. coins when they approved the Coinage Act of 1965.
Reverse (back) design elements
The most prominent feature on the reverse side of today’s dime is the famed torch symbol representing liberty. This iconic design, created by Sinnock’s predecessor Charles E. Barber in 1916, shows a torch surrounded by an olive branch on the left and an oak branch on the right.
Below the torch is the denomination “ONE DIME” in large numerals.
Encircling above the primary design is the motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM”, meaning “out of many, one”. This refers to the emergence of one nation from the thirteen original states. At the base of the reverse side, centered under the torch, is the inscription “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”.
Inscriptions on the dime
In total, several important inscriptions, mottoes, and design elements appear on the obverse and reverse of the Roosevelt Dime:
- Obverse portrait of President Franklin D. Roosevelt
- “LIBERTY” inscription along the rim
- Date of minting below FDR’s portrait
- National motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” along FDR’s neckline
- Reverse torch representing liberty surrounded by olive and oak branches
- Denomination “ONE DIME” below the torch
- Motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM” encircling the top of the reverse side
- Inscription “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” at the base
The combination of meaningful design elements highlighting American ideals and one of the nation’s most influential presidents gives the Roosevelt Dime great historical and numismatic significance. It has undergone only minor changes since being introduced in 1946.
Dime Production and Specifications
US mints producing dimes today
There are currently two mints producing dimes for general circulation in the United States: the Philadelphia Mint and the Denver Mint. Both mints stamp each dime they produce with a small “P” or “D” mint mark to denote where it was made.
The Philadelphia Mint produces the majority of circulating dimes.
In the past, other mints like the San Francisco Mint and Carson City Mint also produced dimes that were released into circulation. But nowadays those two mints only produce commemorative and bullion coins targeted towards collectors.
Metal composition and measurements
The current dime is made up of an outer cladding of 75% copper and 25% nickel, with a solid core of pure copper. This specific composition and layering, which is also used for nickels, quarters, and half dollars, was mandated by the Coinage Act of 1965.
Some key specifications of the dime include:
- Diameter: 17.91 mm
- Thickness: 1.35 mm
- Mass: 2.268 grams
So despite its small size, each dime contains nearly 2.3 grams of medal pressed into a thin but sturdy coin. As with all US coin denominations, the dime’s diameter, thickness, and mass are stringently controlled to maintain uniformity and consistency in coin-operated machines.
Who Is On The Dime Coin – Conclusion
We’ve covered a complete outline of the history, design, and production details related to the US Roosevelt dime. From the origins of the dime denomination to an analysis of FDR’s portrait and the coin’s inscriptions, you now have in-depth knowledge of this iconic small change.
Understanding more about the coins used in everyday transactions provides a window into the rich history of US currency. With this background on the Roosevelt dime in hand, you can appreciate this mode of exchange much more when you next receive a dime in change.