A Dave's Collectible Coins Article

Mercury Dimes: History & Important Info for Collectors

Mercury dimes were first minted in 1916. They continued their run until 1945.

Replacing the Barber dime, it was part of a movement by the government and the U.S. Mint to beautify American coinage.

Design Of the Mercury Dime

The design for the coin did not alter during its run. However, there were several sizes of mintmarks used by the San Francisco Mint. They are noticeably different by comparing them. Following are examples of these different sized mintmarks compared to the regular sizes, so you can easily see the difference.

1916 Mercury Dime

Photo By Dave's Coins

In 1928, the San Francisco Mint used a normal size S mintmark and a Large S mintmark, displayed here.

In 1941, the San Francisco Mint used both a Large S mintmark and a smaller than usual “Small S” mintmark. The regular size S mintmark was not used. Of the two, the 1941-S Large S is the less common variety.

 

1928 S Mercury Dime Variants

Photos By Dave's Coins

1941 S Mercury Dime Variants

Photos By Dave's Coins

Then, in 1945, we have an even smaller S mintmark, referred to as “Micro S”. 

Watch for these mintmarks, as they can affect the value of the coin.

1945 S Mercury Dime Variants

Photos By Dave's Coins

What Are Full Bands? 

In higher grade coins, MS 64 or higher, there is an attribute of the coin which is watched for. On the back of the coin, there is an axe bundled with some sticks. These are tied together with bands. 

What is watched for is that these bands are separated and uninterrupted. If the bands are separated and uninterrupted, it is known as a “Full Bands” Mercury dime. If it is graded as a Full Bands Mercury dime, or “FB” for short, this can increase the value of the coin. 

There is more to study on this subject, but the above gives a quick introduction to Full Bands Mercury dimes.

Full Bands Mercury Dime

Photo By PCGS

FB Mercury Dime Closeup

Photo By PCGS

Key Dates & Varieties

There are several Key Dates for Mercury dimes are 1916-D & 1921 & 1921 D.

There is also a variety of Mercury dime known as the “1942/41 Overdate”, which is quite striking (pun intended). The 1941 dies were altered to make the date 1942.

Mercury Dime 1942/41 Overdate

Photo By CoinWeek

FB Mercury Dime CloseupMercury Dime 1942/41 Overdate (Closeup)

Photo By CoinWeek

And there is a gold Mercury dime which was minted in 2016. This commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Mercury dime. It was made of .9999 fine 24-karat gold. It weighs one tenth of an ounce.

FB Mercury Dime CloseupMercury Dime 1942/41 Overdate (Closeup)

Photo By CoinWeek

History & Art

The Mercury dime, properly known as the Winged Head Liberty dime, was designed by the artist Adolph A. Weinman. He also created the winning design for the Walking Liberty half dollar. On these coins, his initials AW are depicted.

Also, Weinman’s statues grace national parks around the country.

Adolph A. Weinman at work

Photo from Open Parks Network

Weinman was friends with famous poet Wallace Stevens and his wife Elsie. As a gift, he made a bust of Elsie and gave it to them.

She was the model for the both the Winged Liberty dime and the Walking Liberty half dollar. 

The face of the Mercury dime shows Lady Liberty wearing her freedom cap, with wings on the sides.

1917 Mercury Dime (Winged Liberty Dime)

Photo by Dave's Coins

Bust of Elsie Stevens

Photo by Peter Hanchak

Elsie Stevens

Photo by Library of Congress

Per Weinman, the wings were meant to symbolize freedom of thought. When we consider the history of the time, women (known as Suffragettes) were very active campaigning for equal rights. Specifically during this time, they were campaigning for the right to vote.

It was not until 1919 that women were allowed to vote. 

Actress Hedwig Reicher Campaigning in 1913

Photo from the Atlantic

How did the coin become known as the Mercury dime? Mercury was a Roman god. Although Mercury did not wear a freedom cap (which is the hat of a freed slave), he did have wings on his hat.

Also, consider the presence of the image of Mercury in such heavily populated places as New York City.

If you’ve studied your Roman history, Mercury was messenger of the gods AND he was the god of commerce. Per the Ancient History Encyclopedia, “Merchants would pray to him for high profits and protection of their trade goods.” Those knowing this would be apt to consider the image on the dime was that of Mercury. 

And so, the Winged Liberty Head dime became known as the Mercury dime. 

Statue of Mercury

Louvre Museum

Review

The Mercury dime, or Winged Liberty Head dime, was a great leap in the beauty of American coinage. Weinman’s contribution of both this dime and the Walking Liberty half dollar place him in the history books as one of the great artists of coins.

Which Mercury dimes do you need for your collection?

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