The discovery of gold in California and subsequent gold rush resulted in a major increase in the amount of gold that was available in the U.S. economy. This altered the relative values between gold and silver. As a result almost all U.S. silver coins which were then in circulation had melt values that exceeded their face values.
This required a minor decrease in the weight of each of the silver denominations except the tiny Three Cent Piece. Accordingly Congress authorized decreases in weight for every silver coin except the tiny Three Cent Piece and the silver dollar. The silver dollar weight remained the same under the mistaken assumption that such an action would maintain the financial integrity of the dollar. All that exception did was to reduce the chances that the silver dollar, which was already an unpopular coin, would be used in circulation.
The reductions in weigh were noted on the half dime, dime, quarter and half dollar by the addition of arrows at the date. In 1853 arrows also appeared around the eagle on the reverse of the quarter and half dollar, but this feature was dropped in 1854 and ’55. These markings were intended to inform would be coin smelters that it was not worth their while to melt these pieces. In 1856 the arrows would be removed although the weight of the coins remained the same.
This 1853 dime is a very attractive and lustrous example of the type. The mintages were high for the 1853 to ’55 With Arrows coins, but many Mint State coins have indifferent luster, and collectors saved a comparatively small of them from circulation. This piece is an exception to that generalization.