Discovering Seated Liberty Dime Varieties

1838-O Seated Liberty Dime

I recently took on a private contract to write short guides to certain coins. I thought that I could tackle anything they could think of until I was told I had to write between 500-2000 words (four pages) about Seated Liberty Dime Varieties.

Most of what I know about Seated Liberty Dimes are from references like the Red Book. Of course, that is not enough information to write for an entire article, so I went searching for a better reference when I came upon the work by Gerry Fortin. Fortin’s site, seateddimevarieties.com, is the result of his work in understanding all of the varieties of Seated Liberty Dime since he began researching these varieties in 1988.

Fortin’s research documents over 100 different die varieties which he cataloged on his website. He reports that there are 200 date and mintmark varieties when including errors, re-punched dates, or other anomalies. Fortin’s catalog numbers are used by the third-party grading services to identify varieties on their holders. This is the definitive reference for Seated Liberty Dime varieties! If you are interested in the detail of Seated Liberty Dime varieties, you should bookmark seateddimevarieties.com. But for the general numismatist, aspects of his work should be merged with the mainstream.

In most of the numismatic references, including what I had included on the U.S. Coins by Type page, there are five major varieties of Seated Liberty Dimes:

  • Type 1: No Stars on Obverse (1837-1838)
  • Type 2: Stars on Obverse (1838-1853, 1856-1860)
  • Type 3: Arrows at Date (1853-1855)
  • Type 4: Legend on Obverse (1860-1873, 1875-1891)
  • Type 5: Arrows at Date (1873-1874)

Using Fortin’s research, if you consider changes in the design a new major type, there should be three additional varieties. Fortin documents these as one of the major design groups. One variety not included in the mainstream publications is the addition of drapery by Liberty’s left hand. This would split the old Type 2 varieties into two.

The change in 1860 that moves the legend “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” to the obverse of the coin. On the reverse, the laurel wreath was changed to a wreath composed of cotton, tobacco, sugar cane, corn, wheat and oak leaves enclosing the denomination of “ONE DIME” that was created in a larger font. The wreath is sometimes called “Newlin’s Wreath of Cereal” after Harold P. Newlin, a prominent numismatist of his day, who was said to have suggested the idea of the wreath to then U.S Mint Director James Ross Snowden. The updated design was created by James B. Longacre.

Further splitting the old Type 4 began in 1861 when the hubs were fixed to improve the striking quality of the coin. Liberty was given a thinner appearance and the number of lines on the shield above “LIBERTY” was increased to six lines. This is known as a Type II Obverse with a Type I reverse.

When the weight of the coin was changed as part of the Crime of ’73, arrowheads were added to either side of the date of the Type 4 design for a two-year period. Since the arrows were punched directly into the dies, their exact position can vary. Once the new design was released, the U.S. Mint began melting down coins dated 1873 that did not have arrows.

There were some dimes that slipped through the melting process. Dimes from the Carson City Mint were missed which today is considered of the most famous of all 19th-century rarities, the 1873-CC No Arrows Seated Liberty Dime.

Chief Engraver William Barber redesigned the reverse dies in 1876 to improve striking. Although similar to the “Newlin’s Wreath of Cereal” design, there are enough subtle differenced for Fortin to call this a Type II Reverse. Fortin notes that Type I and Type II reverses were used for striking coins from 1876 to 1878 except for 1877 in San Francisco. There have been no reported examples of Type I reverse coins struck in San Francisco during 1877.

After reading Fortin’s reference I decided that Seated Liberty Dimes should note that there are eight varieties instead of the five noted in other publications. This would be for collectors looking to build an interesting typeset of Seated Liberty Dimes. This is why I updated the Seated Liberty Dime entry on my U.S. Coins by Type page as follows:

  • Type 1: No Stars on Obverse (1837-1838)
  • Type 2: Stars on Obverse, No Drapery Under Right Elbow (1838-1840)
  • Type 3: Stars on Obverse, With Drapery Under Right Elbow (1840-1860)
  • Type 4: Type 3 design with Arrows around Date (1853-1855)
  • Type 5: Legend on Obverse [Type I], Longacre “Wreath of Cereal” Reverse [Type I] (1860-1861)
  • Type 6: Legend on Obverse [Type II], “Wreath of Cereal” Reverse [Type I] (1861-1873, 1875-1878)
  • Type 7: Type 6 design with Arrows around the Date (1873-1874)
  • Type 8: Legend on Obverse [Type II], W. Barber “Wreath of Cereal” Reverse [Type II] (1876-1891)

This has now inspired me to look into other early varieties and update my online reference accordingly. Although it will not go into the detail of the research, giving the collector more information is better than just glossing over a topic.

All Seated Liberty Dime images courtesy and copyright by Gerry Fortin.

Catching up by starting a new collection

It has been a very interesting few weeks since my last post. During that time there was a lot of business activity that I hope will allow be to have more time to do some of the things I would rather be doing, like write. Aside from the blog, I have 95-percent of a collecting-related ebook completed and 80-percent of a different sort of book completed. In between business meetings, I was able to start a book I am tentatively calling “Why did the Mint do that?” which may include information about why the Bureau of Engraving and Printing does what it does including a section on the history of counterfeit detection in the United States.

In the mean time, I have started several posts in the same style that I have been writing for the last few years. Until I can make more time, some long-form tomes will have to wait. Instead of taking the time to write longer items, I will look to write shorter posts including in multiple parts, depending on the topic. This way, I can clear the list of ideas I have been saving.

One more bit of housekeeping before I talk about my new collection: you might see a page that says that I am working on an update. I decided that the blog needs a new look and that periodically, I will work on a theme change. Hopefully, I can finish by the end of the month, but you never know!

That being said, I also had taken the time to start a new collection. While I wanted to start something new for a while and had an idea for a direction, I did not have the opportunity until now.

Earlier this month I attended a local coin show in Westminster, Maryland. Westminster could be considered a distant suburb of Baltimore with a big firehall that housed this show. Although I was there to man the front table representing the Maryland State Numismatic Association as its president greeting people, I was able to slip inside to look around. One of the tables had binders with foreign coins and I started to look.

Grabbing the one for Canada, I remembered that the first official coinage of the Province of Canada. In 1840, the British Parliament passed the Act of Union that merged the upper and lower colonies of Canada into the single Province of Canada. As a province, Canada was able to form a more independent government, even though it was answerable to the Crown. Answering to political dissension that was building in the province, Queen Victoria named Ottawa as the province’s capital. Although the province government met in Ottawa anyway, this was a symbolic move.

One of the problems was the lack of circulating currency. Even though the monarchs loosened the rules on circulating coinage in Canada, there was a need for a larger supply. Even though the Province of Canada’s parliament passed legislation to adopt a decimal coinage, Queen Victoria finally recognized the request. As part of trying to maintain order in the province, Victoria ordered the Royal Mint to produce coinage for Canada starting in 1858.

Canadian large cents with the effigy of Queen Victoria are affectionately called Vickie Cents. With the recent elimination of the one cent coin, looking back at the Canadian cent through its history has become popular with Canadian coin collectors. The key date for Vickie Cents is the first year, 1858 coin.

At mid-grade the 1858 Vickie cent is not that expensive. Although they are harder to find, the demand keeps the price reasonable for the average collector. Although I have been thinking about starting a Vickie cent collection for a while but when I found one in this dealer’s binder, I could not resist!Based on the description in the Charlton Standard Catalog of Canadian Coins, the coin would be graded around F-12. But since it is the first year of issue and the general rule is to buy the best you can afford, this was how I was going to make my start with Vickie cents.

1858 Province of Canada Large Cent (Vickie Cent) obverse

1858 Province of Canada Large Cent (Vickie Cent) obverse

1858 Province of Canada Large Cent (Vickie Cent) reverse

1858 Province of Canada Large Cent (Vickie Cent) reverse

Since I was there I decided that even though it was not the first year of issue, I would pick up the last year of issue. Since Queen Victoria died in January 1901, that was the last year her image appeared on coins in the British Commonwealth. I picked out a nice extra fine example to mark the beginning and end of the series.

1901 Dominion of Canada Large Cent obverse —Last year of Victoria Cent

1901 Dominion of Canada Large Cent obverse (Last year of Victoria Cent)

1901 Dominion of Canada Large Cent reverse

1901 Dominion of Canada Large Cent reverse (Last year of Victoria Cent)

Vickie cents were produced in 1858 and 1859 with a few distinguished varieties. One notable variety is the 1858 coin-aligned reverse. At the time it was the Royal Mint’s practice to have coins aligned in what we call today “medal alignment” where the top of the obverse and reverse point in the same direction. An error at the mint created a rarer coin-aligned (tops on opposite ends) coin. In 1859 there were overstrikes, doubled numbers, alignment differences, and composition differences. If I were to look for all of the known varieties, the cost of the 1859 with a Narrow 9 made of brass (not bronze) would cost about as much as a 1914-D Lincoln cent and be much more difficult to find.

The cents of 1858-1859 were minted in enough quantity to keep the Canada stocked with cent until 1876. New portrait, and varieties, were introduced as well as a striking at the Birmingham Mint, also known as the Heaton Mint, along side the British halfpenny, which used the same planchet. Coins struck at the Heaton Mint were given the “H” mint mark.

Foreign coin collecting can be an adventure that may not be as expensive as their U.S. counterparts. If you are collecting for fun, as I am, pick a country, learn a little about the history, and pick a series to collect. I picked Canada because my wife’s family is from the Province of Québec. Not only will you find it a challenge, but the lower demand may make your endeavor more affordable.

Stay tuned for more!

ANACS Population Report and Dollar Sale

ANACS, the oldest certification service, has now published their population report. The report is accessible via the web and requires a free user account. Their population report not only includes the standard varieties, but also a listing of all of the errors of a particular type. For example, a search of 1976-P Type 2 Eisenhower Dollars shows that ANACS has graded Broadstruck, Clip, Double Clip, Double Struck, Die Adjustment Strike, Indent, Off-Center, Partial Collar, Split Planchet, Struck Thru, and Struck Thru Grease errors. I like that!

ANACS is also offering grading of Washington Dollars for $8 through March 31, 2007. There is a 10 coin minimum for their 10 day grading service. I may buy a roll from the bank and see what I can send to ANACS for grading because this is a good deal!

When is a Variation Not a Variety

If you search the online auction sites, you will find less than honest sellers trying to sell variations in the positioning of edge lettering of the new George Washington Dollars errors or varieties. Letters that are pointed up, or the top of the letters towards the obverse, are considered “normal” by these sellers. Letters that are pointed downward, or the top of the letters closer to the reverse of the coin, have been called errors or varieties. They are neither.

An accepted definition of a variety “is any variation in the normal design of a given coin, usually caused by errors in the preparation or maintenance of the coin dies.” They are also errors caused in the striking process. But these definitions do not account for the differences in the orientation. The problem is that after the planchets are struck into coins by the high speed coining machines, they are mechanically collected and fed into a machine that will press the lettering into the edge of the coins.

The machine that adds the edge lettering uses a three part collar to impress the incuse lettering does this without regard to position. not only could the edge lettering face any direction, but the lettering can appear at any position along the edge. The US Mint confirms this by saying that because of “the minting process used on the circulating coins, the edge-incused inscription positions will vary with each coin.

Since the Mint is saying that the process can vary, these variations are normal for the design. Since these are normal variations, they are not numismatic varieties or errors. Thus, the coins with variations of orientation edge lettering are not worth the premiums being sought online. They are worth their face value of $1.

There have been errors found with the edge lettering. The most infamous has been called the “Godless Dollars” for coins missing their edge lettering and the motto “In God We Trust.” Most of these coins were minted in Philadelphia and discovered in Florida. Others have found doubling of edge letters and what looks like breaks in the three-part collars where letters have moved out of place. These are legitimate errors and worth a premium above face value. Orientation variations of the edge lettering are not errors.

If you want to consider these varieties, please save your money and visit your local bank. You can purchase these coins for face value without shipping and handling fees. If you purchase a 25-coin roll, you can spend the coins you do not want since they are legal tender.

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