The following is excerpted from Clifford Mishler’s Coins: Questions & Answers
Q: In the exhibit area of a coin convention, I saw an 1859 Liberty Seated dime that didn’t have anything on it to identify it as a U.S. coin. How could this happen?
A: When the Liberty Seated dime first appeared in 1837, the obverse design included only the figure of Liberty seated with the date below. In 1838 the design was enhanced with the addition of 13 stars around the rim framing the seated figure. On both versions, the country name—UNITED STATES OF AMERICA—appeared on the reverse encircling the central wreath. Commencing in 1860, the country name was moved from the reverse to the obverse, supplanting the stars, with a bolder wreath of agricultural products replacing the former wreath of laurel on the reverse.
In preparing for this change, the engraving department at the Philadelphia Mint created patterns mating the 1859 dated obverse die with the 1860 reverse die, neither of which included the national identity. These “transitional pattern” dimes were struck on regular dime planchets in very limited numbers. Similar “transitional pattern” half dimes of the same type and origin were also struck in very limited numbers dated both 1859 and 1860. It is believed that the Mint director at the time caused these “nation-less coins” to be deliberately struck for sale to collectors. Thus, while these three coins were not struck for circulation, and are of substantial rarity, they are considered part of the Liberty Seated series by some specialists.