Mercury Dimes (1916-1945)

One of the classic American coin designs, the winged Liberty or “Mercury” ten-cent piece was first made in 1916, and was produced until 1945. No coins were produced dated 1922, 1932 or 1933. Coins were made at Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco. The coin was designed by Adolph A. Weinman, whose initials appear as a monogram on the obverse, in the field behind Liberty’s head. The mintmark (when present) appears on the reverse, below the left base of the fasces. 

The type is popularly known as the “Mercury dime,” based on a supposed resemblance between the Roman god Mercury and Weinman’s obverse rendition of Liberty wearing a winged Phrygian cap. The winged cap is symbolic of freedom of thought. The reverse depicts a fasces, symbolic of unity and strength, combined with an olive branch, symbolic of peace. 

There are no truly rare coins within the series, but many of the the earlier Denver & San Francisco mint coins can be elusive in higher grades. The 1916-D is the lowest mintage coin in the entire series, and is one of the classic ‘key-date’ coins of the 20th century. Generations of coin collectors have grown up coveting an elusive “16-D.” All 1921-dated coins are scarcer than other years. Also sought-after are the so-called “1942/1” and “1942/1”-D coins, produced in error when dies were accidentally prepared with two strikings, one each, from both 1941- and 1942-dated hubs. These varieties are seldom found in loose coinage, as they have been sought-after for decades. 

Coins dated from about 1930 onward were saved in large numbers, making them readily available in nice condition for later generations. Heavily-circulated common-date coins are valued primarily in relation to their silver content, but the series as a whole can be a challenge to complete in higher grades.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt died in 1945. He had been strongly identified with the March Of Dimes, and there was a strong desire to honor his memory with a coin design. It seemed appropriate for that coin to be a dime, and Weinman’s classic design was quickly replaced. The first Roosevelt dimes were issued in 1946, and the design remains in current use.