I was running a little late for work this morning, but still stopped to grab a cup of coffee on the way in. I don’t function well without my morning coffee. I noticed when the lady gave me my change that she shorted me a dime. Being in a hurry, I didn’t bother bringing the mistake to her attention. Meh. It’s just a dime. Right?
I started thinking about that dime and dimes in general. I found dimes to be much more valuable back in the early 90’s before everybody had cell phones. I called them “phone calls”. The pay phone off Navy Rd. in Millington, TN cost a dime to make a call. I was 17 and madly in love with a Marine stationed on the base up the road. My parents were not crazy about my love interest and I worried my siblings might listen in on my phone conversations at home in order to gain information to use as leverage against me. This could be easily accomplished by slowly picking up the handset of another house phone, sliding your finger over the receiver button, putting the handset to your ear, and then easing your finger off of the button. Voila! As long as you didn’t giggle or breathe too loudly, you could listen in on someone’s conversation without their knowledge. I found dimes to be very valuable because of this.
For the most part, especially these days, dimes are not worth a whole lot. That’s why we use phrases like “Those are a dime a dozen.” What we mean is that they are easy to come by and we do not find much value in them. I’m not sure when this phrase began to be used, but I do know it was after 1796. 1796 is the year the first dimes were minted. A decimal based coinage system was proposed in 1783 by Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, David Rittenhouse, and Benjamin Franklin. The dime (originally spelled “disme”) was to be one of 6 coins proposed. The value was to be “…in weight and value, one tenth part of a silver unit or dollar”. The word “dime” is French and means “tithe” or “one-tenth part”. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s profile has not always been on the dime, as Mr. Roosevelt was not our first immortal President. Some designs over the centuries include: the Draped Bust, the Capped Bust, the Seated Liberty, the Barber, the Mercury, and finally the Roosevelt dime. One of the most sought after dimes by collectors is the 1916 D issue. They are NOT a dime a dozen! Only 264,000 were made. If you are interested in purchasing one of these beauties, you can make a bid on Ebay. THIS one looks nice.