The dime from 1796

The 1796 is rare and historic, making it a demanding coin for collectors. The 1796's only drawback is finding one and affording it, which can be difficult.

As seen by the date, US dimes were introduced late. In 1792, there were initiatives, but few known 1792 dismes and their legal status is unclear. Even though coin manufacture began in 1793, it was restricted. The law had to be altered because Mint officials lacked the funds to complete financial requirements before coining silver and gold, which takes time.

Another issue was the US's lack of silver and gold. It had to be bought. As things were at the time, bringing in silver or gold determined what coins were made. In theory, lesser denominations were needed, but customers who came to the door or shipped gold or silver demanded higher denominations. Thus, 1794 saw silver dollar manufacture but no dimes.

No dime was minted the following year either. The first quarter didn't emerge until 1796, but dollars, half dollars, and half dimes were all introduced. By 1796, dimes were being produced, but even then, they were not hefty. The first 1796 dimes were minted 22,135. Draped Bust and Small Eagle Reverse dimes with four or five berries were issued in 1796.

The same style of dime was minted with 25,261 pieces in 1797, and the reverse was altered to the Heraldic Eagle, making the 1796 and 1797 dimes the only years of their type with fewer than 50,000 pieces.

Except for Mercury and possibly Roosevelt dimes, dimes have not been popular among collectors. Due to budget constraints, many collectors chose smaller denominations until the 1960s. The dime was their highest denomination, although current attention has been on higher denominations.

Perhaps the only reason the early dimes are so cheap today is their little demand. Mintage is minimal for these coins. The 1796 deserves special attention for its historical significance. Due to changes in silver content, they also melted over time. When coins became too silver-rich, they disappeared from circulation. In these conditions, even the earliest dimes may not survive.

A G-4 1796 penny costs $2,400 and an MS-60 $22,000. MS-60 is almost as excellent as a 1796 dime gets, but you might find one better. Major auctions with numerous penny listings will likely not have a 1796. Some may have been saved since they were the first dimes, but the nation was short on coins. Some places had mostly foreign coinage, and dimes were needed for business. A 1796 dime was likely to get a lot of use, hence the few seen are often in poorer grades.

While $2,400 G-4 or above may seem like a fantastic value, consider what people spend for Full Split Band Mercury dimes. There is nothing wrong with Full Split Bands or other faults, but a 1796 is a solid investment because to its scarcity and history.

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