Mercury Dimes, 1916-1945

Mercury Dimes, 1916-1945

Designed by: Adolph A. Weinman
Issued Date: 1916-1945
Composition: 0.900 part silver, 0.100 part copper
Diameter: 17.9 mm
Weight: 38.58 grains
Edge: Reeded
Business strike mintage: 2,677,153,880
Proof mintage: 78,648

More than a decade before the Mercury Dime was introduced; President Theodore Roosevelt began an effort to drastically change the appearance of American coinage. In 1905 Roosevelt met renowned American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. He commissioned the artist to prepare a coin design in the spirit of those coins from ancient Greece and Rome.

During the next 16 years new designs were put on all of our coins. A young German named Adolph A. Weinman was selected by Mint officials to design what later became known as the Walking Liberty Half Dollar and the Mercury Dime, after entering his designs in a grand competition.

Weinman’s classically designed dime, mistakenly named the Mercury Dime, is actually a symbolic representation of Liberty, with the wings on Liberty’s cap symbolizing freedom of thought. The reverse depicts a fasces, long a symbol of power and authority, which his often associated with the Fascist movements of Western Europe of the 1930’s and 1940’s.

With the exceptions of 1922, 1932, and 1933 Mercury Dimes were produced annually at the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco mints. Proofs were made at Philadelphia from 1936 through 1942.

Mintages increased drastically with the onset of World War II. The increased demand for coins at that time required the Mint, in 1942, to use leftover 1941 dies, repunched with the correct 1942 date, creating what is now the scarce 1942/1 and 1942/1-D overdates. In 1945, quality control had slipped considerably as production increased at the Philadelphia Mint. This accounts for the fact that from an original mintage of over 159 million pieces; perhaps only a few dozen are known with sharp, fully struck reverses.

The motif features Miss Liberty facing right, wearing a Phrygian cap with wings, LIBERTY encircling her head, and with IN GOD WE TRUST and the date below. The wings on the cap gave rise to the popular term Mercury dime for the winged messenger. But, Mercury was a male in mythology and had wings on his feet. The reverse depicts a fasces or bundle of sticks with a blade at the top, against a branch in the background, and with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and ONE DIME around the border. E PLURIBUS UNUM appears at the lower right.

Examples of the Mercury dime type are readily available in all grades from About Good through superb Uncirculated. Certain issues are lightly struck and are apt to have weaknesses on the bands tying the sticks in the fasces on the reverse. Those with sharply defined bands, designated as full split bands, are worth more for many issues.

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