Skip to main content

Coin Clinic: What Could a Dime Purchase in the 19th Century?

Why was our half dime introduced in 1794, but the dime didn’t appear until two years later?

Spanish colonial American silver 1-reale coins were valued at 12.5 cents and circulated widely at the time our domestic coinage was introduced. Since this ‘bit’ circulated successfully, the dime didn’t see a lot of use until the 1820swhen there was a disruption in the supply of Spanish colonial American coins due to the widespread revolutions throughout Central and South America.

There are 13 Star and 14 Star varieties of our 1804 dimes and $2.50 quarter eagle. Is this some sort of commemorative issue?

Ohio entered the Union in 1803, but no states entered the Union the following year. It appears the 14 Star variety was an engraver’s error. Remember, there is a 1797 dime on which there are 16 stars, also an engraver’s mistake.

What could a dime purchase at the turn of the 19th century?

I can’t give you specifics for a single dime, but it is documented a dollar could purchase four pounds of coffee circa 1800. According to Old Inns and Taverns in West Jersey, in Salem County in 1806 you could purchase the “best” dinner with a pint of beer or cider for 37.5 cents, “best breakfast” consisting of tea, coffee, or chocolate with a loaf of sugar for 31 cents, or a dish of cold meat with a pint of beer or cider for 25 cents. Mint workers were paid up to $1.25 per day for an 11-hour shift at that time.

I understand there are fewer examples of Series 1929 Type 2 National Bank notes available than there are of Type 1. Since Type 1 notes were issued earlier, why aren’t they scarcer?

It is generally accepted that about 60 percent of all surviving early paper currency is Series 1929 National Bank notes. Since there were fewer Type 2 notes issued than Type 1, it is the Type 2 notes that are more challenging to find.

How long did Series 1929 small size National Bank notes circulate?

The notes were issued beginning in the calendar year 1929 and continued in use through 1935. While there may have been a few remaining in circulation after this year, it is known 93.7 percent of the $5 denomination had been redeemed by Oct. 31, 1935.

How did National Bank notes circulate, and how were they redeemed?

National Bank notes were issued through banks, then redeemed by the National Bank Redemption Agency. The Comptroller of the Currency would be notified of the redemption of a note and would accordingly issue a replacement.

Red and blue World War Two ration tokens carry a number of different two-letter mint marks. How do I tell what mints these represent?

Although the two-letter marks on the World War Two ration tokens are commonly called mint marks, they were marks made for accountability control and to detect counterfeits. All of these tokens were produced by what is today the privately-owned Osborne Mint in Cincinnati.