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Mercury Dime Set Contains 77 Pieces
By Ginger Rapsus, Numismatic News
December 11, 2013

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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Perhaps the most popular of the three new designs introduced in 1916 is the Mercury dime. A collector favorite, the dime minted from 1916-1945 was designed by Adolph Weinman. The design depicts Miss Liberty wearing a cap with wings, to symbolize freedom of thought, but has long been known as the Mercury dime. The reverse bears fasces, a battle axe and an olive branch.

This coin circulated well and usually looked good, even after years of wear. Many early coins can be seen with the date worn into the rim, with much of the legends on the reverse obliterated, but the basic design remains.

Mercury dimes were stuck at Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco. Dimes were not struck in 1922, 1932, or 1933. The only coin with a mintage under one million was the famous 1916-D, a coin on many want lists. 264,000 were minted, and many went right into circulation. Collectors who dreamed of finding a scarce coin in change always put this coin near the top of their list. The New York Subway Hoard included 241 1916-D Mercury dimes, indicating that this coin did go out and do the job it was created to do.

The 1916-D Mercury dime is possibly the most counterfeited United States coin. Phony dimes have been spotted even at major coin shows. If one should be found, check the “D” mintmark. Every genuine specimen shows the “D” to have a small tail at the top. Check the position of the mintmark, too. A serious collector who purchases a 1916-D should have the coin professionally graded and slabbed, so there is no question it is genuine.

There are a few other dates in this series that can keep a collector hunting. While not as rare as the 1916-D, the two 1921 dimes are scarce. The unheralded 1926-S can also be elusive.

Variety collectors have a lot to love about this set. Two of the most famous overdates in the American series are the 1942/1 dimes from Philadelphia and Denver. Plainly seen with the naked eye, there is nothing subtle about this variety. 166 of the Philadelphia coins were found in the New York Subway Hoard.

There are less famous varieties within this set. Large and small mintmark coins exist for 1928-S, 1934-D, 1941-S, and there is the Micro S 1945-S, with a very tiny mintmark.

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A collector who isn’t too fussy about condition can put together a date and mintmark set of Mercury dimes for a nice price, excluding the 1916-D. Seventy-seven coins make up a complete date and mintmark set, giving a collector a lot of holes to fill.

Hoards of old silver coins can produce numbers of Mercury dimes. Looking through dealer’s junk silver or common boxes can give a collector a good start on a set of circulated Mercury dimes. I once saw a dealer’s offering of a large box of Mercury dimes for sale at a good price, during the holiday season. The coins looked to be a good mix, with some showing white luster, and would have been a great gift for someone interested in Mercury dimes. I have heard of collectors completing sets of Mercury dimes from change, but this was many years ago.

Collectors who are fussy about condition would do well to get a good magnifier and start looking. Study Mint State coins that show full bands, or full split bands, on the reverse. Some are very difficult to find, the 1945-P in particular. A 1945-P dime with full split bands will command a hefty price.

Use that magnifier to learn what a real Mercury dime looks like. Check out the fasces on the reverse. Sometimes a coin will be called “full split bands” when actually, the coin may have been spruced up a bit with a knife.

There are many ways to enjoy Mercury dimes. If a complete set seems out of reach, try a date set. The 1916 coin can be a Philadelphia issue, a first-year coin that is available in Mint State for a reasonable price. A short set, from 1941-1945 makes a lovely group. World War II buffs may want such a set.

Proofs were struck from 1936-1942. A set of proof Mercury dimes is beautiful. Weinman’s design is shown in every detail, and many show attractive toning. Mintage figures range from 4,130 for the 1936 to 22,329 for the 1942.

Real devotees of the series may be interested in the patterns of 1916. They closely resemble the regular issue, but are somewhat different. The patterns may lack the designer’s initials, have a very small date, or the Miss Liberty’s head may look different. One bears gashes on its reverse, but still sold for a good price.

Mercury dimes are beautiful and popular coins that many collectors desire. Building a short set can lead to expanding to a full set. Numismatists building a full set may want to include varieties, and look for undiscovered varieties. Perhaps a collector will want the challenge of putting together a second set. Real fans of the series may assemble a set of proofs and dimes in ultra high grades with full strikes. Any way Mercury dimes are collected, it’s one of the most enjoyable series in American numismatics.

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On December 12, 2013 phil said
Hi Ginger,  I've noticed that there are very many circulated 1942/1 overdate Mercury dimes for sale as compared with uncirculated ones.  It looks to me like those overdate coins circulated for a long time before people "put them away". Did they not know back then there was an overdate on that coin? Or was there no interest in it? Or is there another reason? Thanks, Phil.

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