The indisputable king of the Winged Liberty (or “Mercury”) dime series is the 1916-D Mercury dime, one of the most important rarities of the 20th century. A first-year-of-issue coin, the 1916-D Mercury dime was minted late in the year and split the calendar with the Barber dime, which was wrapping up production in 1916. The Mercury dime, designed by Adolph A. Weinman, arose during the renaissance of American coinage (1907-1921), which saw new designs on all circulating denominations of United States coins from the Lincoln cent to Saint-Gaudens double eagle.
The 1916-D Mercury dime saw a low mintage of only 264,000 and entered circulation rather quietly, as the coin didn’t even hit channels of commerce until 1917. At the time, not many people were collecting modern United States coins by date and mintmark; those who were building cabinets of contemporary coinage generally focused on pieces from the Philadelphia Mint – not branch mints, like the one in Denver. So, relatively few coin collectors saved 1916-D Mercury dimes from the onset, and the issue didn’t really even gain traction as a rarity until the 1930s and ’40s, when newfangled coin boards compelled collectors to build sets of popular U.S. coins by date and mintmark.
Most 1916-D Mercury dimes are heavily circulated, with but tiny numbers known in uncirculated grades. Specimens grading MS65 or higher are extremely rare. So, when a gorgeous example graded MS66+FB (Full Band detail in the fasces on the reverse) by Professional Coin Grading Service hit the sales block at Heritage Auctions in June 2020, it understandably inspired fervent bidding. The coin featured here hammered for an outstanding $72,000.
*Images are courtesy of Heritage Auctions, www.HA.com.