PCGS 4795 - Barber Dime (1892-1916)
Navigate to PCGS numbers: Barber Dime (1892-1916)
1887, Mint Director James P. Kimball noted in his annual report the “inferiority of our coinage” compared to other advanced nations and that in his opinion, the coinage of the U.S. was out of date and should be changed. At the request of Kimball, Senator Justin S. Morill introduced a bill authorizing the Treasury Department to redesign coins without first obtaining the permission of Congress, as long as the current design had been in use for at least 25 years. The bill passed on September 26, 1890 and the dime, quarter and half dollar were targeted for change. The decision of who should redesign the coins eventually fell to his successor, Edward O. Leech.
Ironically, new designs were submitted by Mint engravers throughout the early 1880’s but the only change that occurred was a new nickel designed by Charles E. Barber in 1883. In 1891, when there was discussion of a public competition for new designs. Barber reported to Mint director Kimball that there was no one in the country capable in assisting him in preparing original designs. Augustus Saint-Gaudens confided to Kimball there were only four men in the world competent do to such a redesign: three were in France and he was the fourth. It did not matter. Kimball insisted that rather than going abroad to find the best design talent available, it would be possible to find able designers in America. Against the advice of Barber, the Treasury Department organized a competition to produce new designs. A panel of 10 of the leading artist and sculptors of the day were commissioned to judge which would be the best designs for new coinage. The panel met and instead of discussing the competition, they instead rejected the terms of the competition as proposed by Mint officials on the ground that the preparation time was too short and the compensation woeful. The Mint director rejected the panels’ suggestions and threw the competition out to the public. The results were disastrous. Of the more than 300 drawings submitted, only two received an honorable mention by a smaller judging panel. It is interesting to note that two of the judges were Barber and Saint-Gaudens.
When Leech took over as Mint director, he was well aware of the problems his predecessor had experienced. In order to get new designs into production and avoid another disaster of a competition, he simply directed Barber to draw up new designs. This is what Barber had wanted all along has he felt as Chief Engraver, he, and he alone was responsible for coin design. The result was not much in the way of originality. That would have to wait for more than another 25 years. What Barber did was to modify the large head used on the Morgan dollar by adding a Liberty cap and cropping Liberty’s hair shorter in back. He then placed his initial B on the truncation of the neck. This was the design used not only on the dime, but the new quarter and the new half dollar as well.
The reverse did not go through much of an overhaul either as it uses almost the exact same reverse of its predecessor, the Seated Liberty Dime. While many do not credit Barber with much artistic ability, what he lacked in design capabilities he made up for in knowledge in regards to designing a coin that would withstand a modern high-speed coin press. On January 2, 1892, the first of over half a billion Barber dimes were struck.
Source: Keith Scott
What Barber did was to modify the large head used on the Morgan dollar by adding a Liberty cap and cropping Liberty's hair shorter in back. He then placed his initial B on the truncation of the neck. What Barber did accomplish with his new dime, though, was to design and place into production a coin that would meet the striking requirements of modern, high-speed coin presses. As a Mint employee, he was acutely aware of the need for coins to be designed so they would strike up with one blow from a coin press. His objection to outsiders was, no doubt, due in part to jealousy, but in all fairness he did understand the exacting specifications required to strike millions of coins for commercial purposes.
The reverse uses almost exactly the same wreath used on the Seated Liberty dime of 1860-91.
- Weight: 38.58 grains
- Diameter: 17.9 mm
- Composition: .900 part silver, 0.100 part copper
- Edge: Reeded.
Prices realized from past auction lots. (PCGS Holder)
PCGS Price Guide 
- Breen, Walter H., Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U. S. and Colonial Coins, New York: Doubleday, 1987.
- Keith Scott
- Yeoman, R. S., and Kenneth Bressett (ed.), A Guide Book of United States Coins, 59th Ed., Atlanta, GA: Whitman Publishing, 2005.
- U.S. Mint