WHAT ARE MERCURY DIMES?

Explaining Mercury Dimes requires looking at the coin’s design, history, and range of values. In the simplest terms, Mercury Dimes are small coins produced beginning in 1916—when several American coins became eligible for an updated design—up until 1945. 

The popular coin consists of 90% silver and just 10% copper. Mercury Dimes are most well-known for their recognizable and mystifying depiction of Lady Liberty. The figure is commonly referenced as the Winged Liberty. Its design quickly erupted into the artist’s lasting legacy.

In 1916, when the dime, quarter, and half dollar required a design update, the United States Treasury Department opened a contest for artists to submit new designs for each coin. One winner would be selected. Adolph A. Weinman was chosen as the champion artist for both the dime and the half dollar based on his interesting depiction of Lady Liberty sporting a winged-cap. 

The intention behind Weinman’s design was to symbolize the “Liberty of Thought.” However, the design’s intended symbolism was lost and it became generally misinterpreted for the Roman God, Mercury; the God of trade and commerce. Thus, the 1916 coins’ legacy and nickname were born, and they became known as Mercury Dimes. 

Interestingly though, this misconception was an impossibility considering all American coins required Lady Liberty to be featured in their design in some way at the time. 

THE VALUE AND VARIABLES OF MERCURY DIMES

Mercury Dimes have a wide range in value which is dependent on several variables. These include the individual pieces’ distinguishability by date and variety. This only works in favor of Mercury Dimes’ popularity. It means there are affordable pieces accessible to most budgets. 

When compared to other collectable American coins, Mercury Dimes don’t offer many valuable varieties. However, those that are considered valuable are tremendously sought-after. Some of these valuable Mercury Dime denominations include 1916-D, 1921-D, and 1942-D ranging in price from $200 to $2,100. 

In terms of all Mercury Dimes though, the range is much broader and can start below $10 and reach heights up to the mid- six figures for the rarest and best-kept pieces. In any budget though, one of the key pricing variables is the quality and condition of the individual coin for sale. 

THE MOST VALUABLE MERCURY DIMES

Of all the Mercury Dimes’ varieties, two of the most sought-after are the 1916-D Mercury Dime and the 1942/41 Mercury Dimes from either the Philadelphia or Denver Mint locations. Specifically, the 1916-D Mercury Dime is considered the most valuable Mercury Dime, due to its historic low mintage total of approximately 264,000.  Only about 10,000 of those coins are believed to have survived and entered circulation. 

1916-D Mercury Dimes in just “good” condition can be sold for about $750. With condition and cost sharing a linear relationship, these pieces can be sold on their own for more than $10,000. 

1942/41 Mercury Dimes minted in Philadelphia or Denver gained popularity and demand due to imperfections on the coins. These imperfections followed a faulted minting process at these specific locations. They have been attributed to several key contributing factors including an inexperienced minting crew, heightened pressure due to increased production expectations, and the usage of improper dies. 

Similar to the 1916-D Mercury Dimes, the 1942/41 versions minted in either Philadelphia or Denver can sell for thousands of dollars despite the larger supply. 

Ultimately, Mercury Dimes of all dates and supplies hold some value, despite the vast range in price. It’s a uniquely interesting coin, based on its storied history and stunning design.