In 1881, Billy the Kid made his famous and daring escape from the Lincoln County Courthouse jail. The gunman was being held for the shooting of Sheriff William Brady during his campaign of retribution for the killing of his employer. During the escape, Billy the Kid was able to reach a gun and kill his two guards. This 1881 dime recalls perhaps Billy the Kids most renowned feat.
Pursuant to the terms of the February 12, 1873 Mint Act, the federal government increased the weight of the Dime from 2.49 grams to 2.50 grams. This infinitesimal change was apparently intended to make U.S. coinage conform more closely to the metric system. In practice, however, planchets prepared prior to and after passage of this Congressional act both fell within the legal tolerance for weight, and we suspect that the former continued to be used after February 12 until the Mint exhausted its supply.
In order to distinguish those coins struck after the new weight standard took effect, the Mint modifed the obverse design of the Seated Dime by placing arrows at both sides of the date. Mint personnel first conceived this idea in 1853-1855 to denote an increase in weight for the denomination, although the arrows employed in 1873 and 1874 are noticeably smaller than their predecessors. From 1875 through the end of the Seated Dime series in 1891, production continued at the new weight standard without a distinguishing mark. The 1873-1874 Arrows is, therefore, an important two-year type that is understandably popular with collectors and investors.