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Of course, the moment somebody finds or inherits an old coin, they usually wonder right away if it’s rare.
Mercury dimes, also called Winged Liberty Head dimes, were minted from 1916 to 1945 and are indeed old coins. But are they all rare?
The answer is no, not all Mercury dimes are rare.
In fact, during each of most of the years that Mercury dimes were made, millions upon millions were turned out by the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco branches of the United States Mint.
There are, however, a few dates in the Mercury dime series that are considered scare – even rare.
Do you have any of the following?
- 1916-D Mercury dime – The key date for the series, the 1916-D is indeed a rare coin. A mere 264,000 were minted, and without a doubt, even fewer exist today. For decades, this coin has been recognized as a popular rarity, and because it is also part of a heavily collected series of coins, has long been a relatively expensive coin to purchase. Values for the 1916-D start at around $1,000 for a heavily worn specimen (Good-4). However, for an uncirculated 1916-D, expect to pay between $10,000 and $15,000 or more.
- 1921 Mercury dime – Among rare Mercury dimes, the 1921 may not be the most expensive, but it is not a date to sneeze at. With only 1.2 million ever minted, the 1921 Mercury dime is among the scarcest issues and can be a relatively tough date to find. Values begin at around $50 in Good-4 and climb to more than $1,000 for uncirculated examples.
- 1921-D Mercury dime – Like its Philadelphia-minted cousin, the 1921-D Mercury dime is an early 1920s coin issue that has a low mintage and, thus, is in high demand among those who need this coin to fill their albums and sets. Look to spend at least $60 to buy a decent, Good-4 specimen. You could spend more than $1,200 for an example in uncirculated grades.
- 1931-D Mercury dime – A tough date for many collectors of rare Mercury dimes, 1.8 million 1931-D dimes were minted. At $10 for a Good-4 example, the album slot for a 1931-D Mercury dime is certainly more affordable to fill than the other dates in this list. The price of this Mercury dime easily tops $100 for an uncirculated example.
- 1942/1 Mercury dime – this is an overdate variety that has gained a lot of attention over the years, especially from those who specialize in rare Mercury dimes. Though this is not really en essential addition if you’re out to simply collect all regular-issue date-and-mintmark combinations in the series, get ready to lay down $500 or more to buy an example.
- 1942/1-D Mercury dime – A similar overdate variety arose at the Denver mint that same year, resulting in mintmarked examples of the 1942/1 Mercury dime. The Denver issue is also worth around $500 and up.
As you can see, there aren’t many rare Mercury dimes to collect, but those which were made are worth a pretty penny (or dime!) and definitely have a strong coin collector following.
As you should do whenever buying any rare coins, don’t settle for the first example you see, watch out for too-good-to-be-true bargains, and be sure you buy authenticated, slabbed coins whenever possible.
My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I'm a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I'm also the editor at CDN Publishing (a trusted source for the price of U.S. rare coins), editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I've contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I've also authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins — and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!