Park Avenue Numismatics
5084 Biscayne Blvd, Suite 105
Miami, FL 33137
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AMONG THE PROVISIONS of the omnibus Mint Act of February 12, 1873 was one attempting to introduce metric weights into our national coinage. The 5 cent nickels already were officially supposed to weigh 5 grams apiece; hence-forth the dime, quarter and half dollar were to weigh 2.5, 6.25 and 12.5 grams apiece. This provision hardly merits praise. Mint tolerances were broad enough so that the coins could not be legally used as weights, even if there were any reason to use metric weights at the time outside a chemical laboratory; one hundred years after this Act of Congress the United States is still lagging behind the rest of the world in introducing weights and measures to school children in the metric system.
For reasons unknown the new coins were given a distinguishing mark, which turned out to be a reappearance of arrows at the dates. The older coins were theoretically to remain current, though the incomplete records available do indicate that some of the older no-arrows coins were melted down on and after July 10, 1873. These meltings included no-arrows coins from Carson City and San Francisco, and in Philadelphia they included unsold two-cent pieces, trimes, and Proof coins of 1872-73 without arrows, possibly other dates as well. (Possibly these meltings may account for the rarity of certain Carson City issues without arrows.)
The dimes with arrows at date, 1873-74, have long been prized as type coins. Quantities minted were ample in Philadelphia, moderately small in San Francisco, and really small only in Carson City. Among the 5,327,700 business strikes and 1,500 Proofs from Philadelphia are enough survivors so that the coins are available for a price. The S mints (695,000 in all) pose no severe problem except in Mint State, in which both dates are very scarce. On the other hand, the Carson City issues – 18,791 of 1873 with arrows, 10,817 in 1874—are both rare, a tiny fraction of 1% surviving of each; only one 1873 is known in Mint State, less than six of 1874 in the same grade.
Some 500 Proof sets of silver coins were struck (with the trade dollar included), together with possibly as many as 300 extra dimes. Many of these sets were broken up by collectors wishing to add the dimes to their runs of dimes by dates, their quarters to their runs of quarters, etc. As a result, most of the Proof sets now known were assembled coin by coin in recent years. The use of metric weights has continued through 1964, but their importance to the mint solely consisted in a multiplication of decimal points in the operations of strip rolling, blank cutting, and blank weighing. Their importance to the general public was nil.