Many collectors focus on US silver dimes of the twentieth century. Mercury dimes, minted from 1916 to 1945, are an iconic American coin. Most dates were abundantly minted, but there are several rare Mercury dimes. These rare ones command a good price and make collecting a complete series of Mercury dimes a challenge for many. They have a very strong following among collectors which makes them excellent for investing purposes as well.
The Mercury Dime
The Mercury dime, also known as the Winged Liberty Head dime, features the head of Lady Liberty facing left and wearing a winged cap on the obverse. The image was almost immediately mistaken for an image of the Roman god Mercury, who was often depicted wearing winged shoes or a winged headpiece. The reverse of the coin features the Roman fasces, comprised of an axe tied to a bundle of rods. Fasces were a symbol of authority in ancient Rome. Higher quality Mercury dimes are referred to as “full band” coins, in which the reverse is so well struck that the rods of the fasces are extremely well defined and completely continuous.
Rare Mercury Dimes
The key date in the series is the 1916-D Mercury dime. Only 264,000 of these coins were minted. It is believed that many fewer than that exist today, making this the exceptional Mercury dime for collectors and investors. Because it is the key date in a very popular series of coins, it generally commands a steep price. At the time of this writing, a check of Amazon reveals an AU-58 certified 1916-D Mercury dime asking $12, 700. Even well worn 1916-D dimes in about good condition can fetch a high price, generally over $500. Certified mint condition uncirculated specimens can sell for well over $50,000. Yes, it’s true!
Semi-key dates of the Mercury dime series include the 1921 Mercury dime (1.2 million minted), 1921-D Mercury dime (just under 1.1 million produced), and 1932-D Mercury dime (1.8 million minted). These semi-key dates are also considered rare Mercury dimes. The 1932-D can command over $100 in uncirculated condition. Even lower grades, such as good or very good, will cost several tens of dollars.
There are two rare Mercury dimes that are error coins: the 1942/1 Mercury dime and the 1942/1-D Mercury dime. These errors were created when two obverse dies were impressed with a 1941-dated hub and then a 1942-dated hub. Although technically not needed for a complete set of Mercury dimes, these error coins are in high demand among dime enthusiasts and hence they command a premium price. Both will cost several hundred dollars or more depending upon the quality of the coin.
How to buy Rare Mercury Dimes at a Fair Price
Because these rarities are so popular and valuable, many people can end up over paying for these coins. Your best bet is to watch the prices posted for these rarities on a variety of online sites. Be stealthy and observant. Wait for reasonable prices to appear. This will often occur when the overall price of silver is low. In some cases you may wish to propose a counter offer to the posted price and possibly acquire a rare piece at a very good price. Search eBay and Amazon regularly to get a good feel for pricing.
Update April, 2016: Centennial Year for the Merc! This year is the 100th anniversary of the Mercury Dime. Great time to add some to your collection!
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