The Value of Silver Dimes Before & After 1964
Silver dimes offer an affordable way to accumulate physical silver. Each dime contains just 0.0715 troy ounces of actual silver content, meaning the price per coin is rather modest. And buyers get something that is both trusted and recognizable, because it is an official US coin.
Along with silver quarters and half-dollars, silver dimes constitute a class of coins referred to as “junk silver.”
When Did They Stop Making Silver Dimes?
Silver dimes (90% silver) were minted until 1964. The US Mint switched from silver to a copper-nickel alloy in 1965. This alloy remains in use today.
There are three main designs which are available in 90% silver dimes – “Barber” dimes, Winged Liberty Head (also known as “Mercury” due to a resemblance to the Roman god Mercury), and the Roosevelt Dime.
Mercury dimes are perhaps the most iconic of the designs and actually command a small premium in price because of the design’s popularity.
How Much Are Silver Dimes Worth?
Silver dimes were minted for decades in very large quantities. Most are not collectibles and can usually be purchased near the intrinsic value of the metal they contain. This includes coins minted more than 100 years ago. Age alone does not make a coin highly desirable to collectors. Scarcity is the bigger consideration.
That is good news for silver investors who like the idea of buying official coinage, without paying extra to do it.
Read on for a more detailed overview of silver dimes.
What is Junk Silver?
The term junk silver is used for a category of silver coins that were minted in huge numbers and circulated, and, therefore, do not command any collectible premium. However, don’t let the junk moniker fool you. These coins are always in high demand from investors who are interested in owning silver, not rare coins.
Junk silver coins are valued based on the silver they contain plus a small premium.
Until 1965, the United States mint typically issued silver coins in an alloy that consisted of 90% silver and 10% copper. This alloy is also referred to as “coin silver”.
Today it is more common for mints and refiners to produce silver in at least .999 purity. Modern coins are not designed for circulation, so alloy metals to improve wear characteristics are often dropped from the formula. Metals which are at least .999, or “bullion”, purity are built into some important laws. For example, investors seeking to own precious metals in their retirement account must have .999 in most cases. Junk silver is not eligible to be held inside an IRA.
Any combination of Pre-1965 “junk” silver dimes, quarters and half dollars with a face value of $1 will contain 0.715 oz. of actual silver content. In other words, ten silver dimes contain .715 troy ounces of pure silver, if the coins were to be melted and the silver extracted.
Interestingly, the one-dollar coins, such as Peace and Morgan silver dollars, have slightly more silver content than an equivalent face value of smaller coins. Each silver dollar contains .7732 oz. of silver content.
Types of Silver Dimes
Liberty Head Barber Dime
The Liberty Head “Barber” coins were introduced in 1892 to replace dimes with the Seated Liberty motif. Seated Liberty coins had been in circulation since the 1830s, and officials determined it was time for a change.
Mint Director Edward O. Leech organized a design contest in 1891. However, no designers applied for the contest as only the winner would get the cash prize. Later that year, Leech appointed Charles Barber to design the new coins.
President Benjamin Harrison approved the design in November 1891. Production of the new coins finally commenced in 1892. The coins were met with mixed reception and discontinued in 1916, as soon as it was legally possible to do so.
The Liberty Head Dime coin weighs 2.5 g and measures 17.91 mm in diameter. It was struck in an alloy of 90% silver and 10% copper and circulated dimes each contain 0.0715 oz. of silver content.
The Liberty head is the primary motif on the obverse side. The inscriptions “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and the year of issuance are also featured on the obverse. The reverse side sports the denomination in raised letters and is surrounded by a wreath.
Winged Liberty Head “Mercury” Dime
The Winged Liberty Head dime, widely referred to as the “Mercury dime,” was introduced in 1916 as part of a series which replaced coins designed by Charles Barber. Famous sculptor Adolph A. Weinman designed the new coins. The Winged Liberty Head dimes were minted until 1946 when they were replaced by the Franklin D. Roosevelt dimes.
On the obverse side, the Winged Liberty Head dime features the goddess Liberty with a winged Phrygian cap, a traditional symbol of liberty and freedom in the West. The inscriptions “LIBERTY” and “IN GOD WE TRUST” are also featured on the obverse side. The year of issuance can be found beneath the sculpture. Thanks to the winged cap, the coin quickly became known as “Mercury” dime, as Lady Liberty with the winged cap resembled the Roman god Mercury.
The reverse side is adorned with fasces wrapped with an olive branch. The inscriptions on the reverse side include “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”, “E PLURIBUS UNUM”, and “ONE DIME”.
The coin is 17.9 mm in diameter and 2.5 g in weight. The alloy is 90% silver and 10% copper and each circulated coin contains .715 troy oz of silver.
The Roosevelt dime was introduced in 1946. At the time of this writing, the Roosevelt dime is still in production, though in a copper-nickel alloy. Prior to 1965, all Roosevelt dime coins were struck in 90% silver alloy.
They were designed by John R. Sinnock, one of the mint’s employees.
On the obverse side, the Roosevelt dime features a portrait of the late president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, looking to the viewer’s left. Along with the bust, the obverse side also features the words “LIBERTY” and “IN GOD WE TRUST”. The mint mark, year of issuance, and designer’s initials can be found below the bust.
On the reverse side, the coin sports a torch accompanied by branches of oak and olive. The inscriptions featured on this side include “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” and “ONE DIME.”
Prior to 1965, the coin had the same size and weight as both of its silver predecessors. It also had the exact same amount of silver (0.0715 troy ounces).
Are Silver Dimes a Good Investment?
Silver dimes, along with the other junk silver coins, don’t require a lot of money to start investing. The low cost makes them a great starting point for beginners.
The fact that they were struck in huge numbers and remain popular means the market for silver dimes is deep and liquid.
The Winged Liberty “Mercury” dimes even command a small premium based on the popularity of the design.
These times offer an enticing combination of features which can be otherwise hard to get. They are low cost AND they are official government issue coinage. For investors who do not mind holding previously circulated coins, these are a great option.
Junk silver coins, including silver dimes, are probably the best way to get official coinage at the lowest cost. They don’t require a big initial investment.
The unit values are small, particularly for dimes and that makes them a useful addition to any barter stash of coins.
Likewise, these coins are always easy to buy and sell. Vast quantities of these coins remain in market and are traded daily.