Collecting Liberty Seated dimes has been a personal passion and addiction for over twenty-five years. This beautiful United States denomination was minted from 1837 through 1891. As a frame of reference, Andrew Jackson completed his two term presidency in March 1837 while 1891 saw Benjamin Harrison as United States president. During that time period, numerous economic and political changes swept across our expanding country. The United States experienced the Mexican-American conflict between 1846-1848 with the belief that America had the God given right to expand its borders from sea to shining sea. The realities of both the Civil War and the Western silver and gold rush impacted the design and mintage of Liberty Seated dimes. Across its 55 year life span, the series under went eight design changes, which were driven by either economic events or the goal of design alignment across United States silver denominations. Collecting and researching dimes from the early New Orleans, San Francisco and Carson City mints brings the history of the United States to life. The subsidiary mints played an important role in the distribution of coinage for local commerce and today, we can extract characteristics about life in those local regions from surviving coinage. One cannot forget the Philadelphia mint which consistently issued Liberty Seated dimes until the transition to the Barber design in 1892.
Prior Liberty Seated dime die variety research was documented in two pioneering reference works and continued research can be found presently in the ongoing articles of the Liberty Seated Collectors Club. Kamal M. Ahwash published the "Encyclopedia of United States Liberty Seated Dimes" in 1977. This book documented the early research efforts of Kam Awhash and John McCloskey. They presented the numismatic community with the first detailed study of Seated dime die varieties captured into the mid 1970s. Research of the Liberty Seated dime series continued afterwards through the efforts of the Liberty Seated Collector's Club, formed in 1974, and its membership. New variety findings were and are continually documented in the traditional paper journal, The Gobrecht Journal, and recently, the electronic E-Gobrecht. In 1992, Brian Greer published "The Complete Guide to Liberty Seated Dimes". The incremental die variety discoveries beyond those documented by Kamal Ahwash were presented, however Brian Greer's book included new insight into Liberty Seated dime date and mintmark rarity by grade ranges. These rarity estimates proved to be most useful for collectors to understand why certain dates were more available in Mint State than circulated grades, as an example. The formulation of collecting goals became straightforward with the information found in Brian Greer's guide book. However, Brian's book was limited in scope with respect to comprehensive die variety analysis due to the publishing format.
Presented here is the third Seated Dimes die varieties book and entitled, "The definitive resource for Liberty Seated Dime variety collectors." This web-book summarizes the results of Liberty Seated Dime die variety studies and documentation since 1985. What started as a personal attempt to collect the series by date and mintmark soon turned into a challenge to identify unreported die varieties in The Gobrecht Journal. As the die varieties continued to be discovered, a systematic method for collecting this information was constructed using personal computer based software. A Liberty Seated Dime die variety database emerged through the use of Microsoft Excel. With a database in hand, the pursuit of die varieties evolved into a project to identify and build an Extra Fine or better grade reference set of known obverse and reverse dies by date and, where possible, their die marriages. This effort has been ongoing as new discoveries are constrained, only by the amount of Seated dime coinage that can be inspected and compared to prior documentation.
The format of this book is heavily influenced by the best qualities of Ahwash's and Greer's efforts along with the need to develop a method for documenting hundreds of die varieties and major die diagnostics. I borrowed several of Kam Ahwash's die attribute measurement techniques and translated those tools through the use of modern digital imaging software. Brian Greer's rarity ratings and pricing histories are employed in the same fashion as presented in his book. Finally, the Al C. Overton methodology for die numbering found in "Early Half Dollar Die Varities 1794 - 1836" offered the best approach to label and catalogue the host of Seated dime dies as they were being identified.
So how can a collector make use of this electronic reference to enjoy the challenges of the Liberty Seated dime series? This web-book is designed to provide collecting strategies for both the novice and the most experienced numismatist. By level of challenge, the following collecting strategies are known to be employed today and are recommended for the reader's consideration;
1. A type collection of the eight major designs changes
2. A date collection, which is one example of each date in the 55 year series
3. A Redbook date and mintmark collection attempting to locate all of the required examples in a selected grade range
4. Variety collecting is the next logical progression and can take many forms,
- Major 100 Varieties, a collection of the 100 most significant Liberty Seated Dime varieties as defined by the author
- Major 200 Dates and Varieties, a date and mintmark collection that includes the challenging major die varieties
- A collection of repunched, misplaced dates or shattered dies with cuds!
- A collection of obverse and reverse dies within one date and/or mintmark
- A collection of proof dates only, a rather significant challenge given the rarity of 1837 through 1855 proof examples
The effort to document all Liberty Seated Dime die varieties in comprehensive detail has been a major undertaking. The amount of digital imaging required to properly illustrate the location of die markers dictated a digital format, culminating with the web-book publishing approach. Since personal computers and web browsing are common place in our American society, I chose the html programming language viewable via Microsoft's Internet Explorer or other similar web browsers as the basis for documenting and presenting the entire library of Seated Dime varieties. Images were generated with a 36 bit scanner (until 2001) or with a Nikon CoolPix 995 digital camera and a stereo microscope. Each image receives subsequent processing through commercial digital imaging processing software. Some images are enhanced to remove scratches or marks on the plate coins for overall quality of the end product. As time allows, I am attempting to regenerate all of the scanner images as their visual quality is no longer consistent with results from a digital camera. Usage of links is significant within the web-book to improve ease of use.
Being the web-book's best customer, I developed a product that allowed for rapid attribution of Seated dime varieties at coin conventions, on dealer internet sites or eBay from my home or business personal computers. By incorporating the individual date denticle ruler tables and reverse die mintmark guides, variety attribution became much easier and less time consuming. During 2009, the Date Pictorial link was added as a visual die variety screening aid to simplify database access in liu of navigating to the Table of Contents and inspecting the lengthy date chapter tables for a particular variety. Readers are always encourage to provide feedback about the web-book's features and ease of use and ideas for improvement.
This web-book remains a work in progress and the contents are the author's best effort to report years of findings in an organized fashion. Many die varieties wait to be discovered. Common dates will need more years of research to uncover undocumented dies and die marriages. Some of the varieties in this book may be challenged or disputed, as individuals are motivated to re-investigate their collections as a result of published information within this web-book. Several fellow die variety collectors have also be essential for adding incremental content. I hope that readers will understand that future revisions are very likely and will continue. Once again, the published information in this web-book is constantly updated to include the most recent findings by the author and supporting contributors. Continual updating is not possible with hardbound books.
Many individuals have approached me over the years and asked for a hardbound version of the web-book. Unfortunately, there are no plans for a hardbound version due to the multiple volumes necessary to capture the information listed here. With the advent of the Apple iPad, collectors and dealers are converting to lightweight digital electronics to store their numismatic reference material. Clearly, as one well known New England dealer stated at an ANA show, "I would rather carry more coins to major shows than reference books; your web-book is what the industry needs to migrate towards." Her words well capture my vision in the late 1990's for using the internet as the basis for publishing this thome.
Finally, I encourage the current and future collectors of the Liberty Seated dime series to closely examine their coins. There is a wealth of information about the practices and outcomes of the minting process available through the close inspection of coins that are collected today. We should also remember that we are the curators of our collections and that many generations to come will continue to enjoy the coins that we shelter and preserve today.
Updated March 2012