This phrase is used to describe things that are abundant in quantity and/or very cheap; something that’s easily acquired.
Example: These glass cups might look expensive, but they are a dime a dozen over at the general store. In other words, the glass cups are cheap and readily available at the store.
The Origin Of “A Dime a Dozen”
In the year 1796, the first U.S. dimes were produced for circulation. Because of this, I think it would be reasonable to say that the origin of this phrase must have been either during or after that year. From what I can tell, this phrase looks like it originated sometime during the 1800s, where various foods were being sold by the dozen, and their price was nothing more than a single dime.
According to several newspapers from that time, the food items that were being sold by the dozen included eggs, oranges, and peaches, among other things. Now, I’m not entirely sure how much the dime was worth back then compared to today, but those sound like great deals to me! Anyways, one of the newspapers that mentioned these sorts of prices was the Galveston Daily News, 1866:
“The San Antonio Ledger says the city is well stocked with peaches at a dime a dozen.”
This phrase with its figurative meaning of “something that’s very common and/or of small worth,” started to be used around the 1930s. The earliest that I could find it in writing (with its figurative meaning is from The Northern Miner newspaper, 1931, where it reads:
“‘Carners,’ the old-timer said, ‘is just an overgrown clown. As for the others–Schaof, Baer, Paulino, Risko, Campolo–they’re nothing but ‘dime a dozen fighters.’ “
Another example of this expression with its figurative usage comes six years later, from the Sandusky Register, 1937:
“Smiles were a dime a dozen in the Yankee clubhouse. Even Colonel Ruppert, owner of the club, was so stated he went from player to player shaking hands.”
Here is an example of this phrase used in a sentence:
1. Hugs were a dime a dozen at our family reunion, which is not surprising considering everyone was so happy to see each other.
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