Silver Barber Dimes were struck by the United States Mint from 1892-1916. The silver dimes were named after the artist who created both their obverse and reverse imagery, Charles E. Barber who was chief engraver of the United States Mint from 1880 to 1918.
Each Barber Dime is composed of 90% silver with 0.0723 ounces of the precious metal for a total weight of 2.5 grams. (Current melt value information can be found using the calculator in the right column.) The coin contains the same obverse bust of Liberty as found on the quarter dollar and half dollar issued by the U.S. Mint during approximately the same time.
The Barber Dime replaced the Seated Liberty Dime which had been produced by the U.S. Mint for over fifty years from 1837-1891. It was part of a new era of silver coinage brought about through the efforts of then U.S. Mint director James P. Kimball. Kimball sought to revitalize American coinage because he felt Americans did not see coins as "an expression of art of their time."
Historical Barber Dime Silver Coin Melt Values
To that end, Kimball pushed for legislation allowing coin designs to be changed after twenty-five years. Previous legislation was worded as such that coin designs could only be altered based on Congressional authorization.
With new legislation (Word doc) in place allowing the changes, new U.S. Mint director Edward O. Leech appointed a four-member committee to seek out replacement coin designs. Despite hundreds of submissions, the committee was unable to recommend any. It is believed that Charles Barber, who was on the committee, had an aim to create the designs himself so he may have been influential in ensuring none of the submitted designs were accepted.
Barber’s wishes were granted and he was directed to create the new designs. His obverse for the dime would include a bust of Liberty complete with a Phrygian cap. The cap is a symbol of freedom and liberty. The same design would be found on other Barber coinage including the quarter and half dollars, as previously mentioned.
The reverse of the Barber Dime contains a wreath of corn, oak and wheat leaves. Inside the wreath is the inscription of "ONE DIME."
Collectors seek out the Barber Dime as a relatively easy and low-cost addition to their collection. The notable exception to the series is the 1894-S, of which only two dozen were believed to have been struck and only nine are still known to exist. At auction, these strikes have gone for well over one million dollars.
The Barber Dimes are also valuable as junk silver coins, if they merit no numismatic value, based on the 0.0723 ounces of silver in each strike.