Mercury Head Dimes

Posted by on October 29, 2011

Coin Weight (g) Composition Silver Melt Value Full Melt Value
Mercury (1916-1921, 1923-1931, 1934-1945) 2.5 90% silver, 10% copper
5638372626 dd9d43f77f z 300x300 Mercury Head Dimes

1938 Mercury Dime, PCGS PR-65 (photo by Northern Lights Numismatics*)

The Mercury Head Dimes were designed by sculptor Adolph Alexander Weinman in 1916 and minted in 1916 through 1945.  This silver dime has a diameter of 17.90 mm, weighing 2.5 grams, the edge has 118 reeds.  This silver coin is made of 90% silver and 10% copper.

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Adolph Alexander Weinman also designed the ‘Walking Liberty’ silver half dollar the same year.  His Neo-classical design is a beautiful example of the times.  It had become tradition to have Liberty portrayed on United States coins and Weinman continued in this fashion.  The Phrygian cap, adapted by the French Revolutionaries as a symbol of their pursuit of liberty, had been used before on coins minted in the United States.  Weinman had added wings to his Liberties cap and with only the short ringlet curls of hair apparent Liberty (the model’s hair was tucked away in the back) is frequently interpreted as being a depiction of ‘Mercury’ the ancient Roman herald of their gods. 

The Mercury Dime obverse depicts Liberty’s head wearing a winged cap facing left with the date on the bottom right where the shoulder might be.  The designers mark “w” opposite of “IN GOD WE TRUST” is on the lower left by the neck and “LIBERTY” encircles the top half of the coin.


5638372950 50db804fd6 z 300x294 Mercury Head Dimes

1938 Mercury Dime, PCGS PR-65 (photo by Northern Lights Numismatics*)

The reverse depicts the Roman fasces, a bundle of rods with an ax.  The ax faces left.   An olive branch starts on the left of the fasces and arches behind and ends right of the fasces.  The mink mark is to the left of the base of the olive branch.  “ONE” is a little further to the left of the bottom of the olive branch and “DIME” continues to the right of the base of the fasces both words encircling the bottom of the coin.  “*UNITED.STATES.OF.AMERICA*” encircles the top half of the dime.  “E PLURIBUS UNUM” is on the right of the fasces.

The fasces symbolizes governing authority; “by the rod or by the ax”.  At the time of the design the United States was still trying to broker a peaceful resolve for Europe’s Great War (World War I).  An important note is the three horizontal bandings of the fasces.  The center is of importance to collectors because the design has two close together and in weak strikes of the dye the band appears to be single.  The stronger strikes show the two bands clearly differentiated when coins are graded that show this ‘Full Split Bands’ a “FSB” (or FB) is added to their grade.  To get the FSB notation the separation of the bands must be complete for the length of the bands.  If the coin’s band is worn to an interruption of this separation it does not get the FSB rating.  “Mercury” dimes in less than Fine condition usually have too much wear to get the FB rating even if it is a strong strike coin.

1916 D Mercury Dime

The 1916 D year and mint are very scarce!  Of 264,000 we’re struck, the lowest minting of this series. Because these are dearly sought after, there are many counterfeits!  These go for $1,000 even as low as VG8 grade. It is worthwhile having them certified.

6 comments on “Mercury Head Dimes

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