With the second-smallest mintage of all Mercury (Winged Liberty) dimes, the 1921-D is clearly a semi-key date.
Additionally, with San Francisco not eve striking dimes that year, Denver was the only branch mint to even produce this type. This was due to two main factors: the economy and the Morgan dollar’s return.
Firstly, from 1920 to 1921 the US economy suffered through a period of massive deflation estimated between 13 and 15%. This led to a sharp rise in unemployment and a decline in production. While ultimately a short recession totaling only 18 months, it resulted in a sharp downturn in demand for new coinage.
Secondly, the United States Mint shifted a disproportionate percentage of its silver bullion production from the smaller denominations to the newly reintroduced Morgan dollar, as ordered by the Pittman Act of 1918.
With a total combined mintage just under 87 million dollars, of which Denver was responsible for 30,345,000 pieces, this issuance of Morgans dwarfed all coins minted by Denver that year. In fact, the Denver Mint only struck Morgan dollars, Walking Liberty half dollars, and Mercury dimes in 1921. Altogether, while Denver’s 1921 issuance of 1,080,000 dimes represented a nearly 95% production decrease, they are generally well struck and quite collectable. Unlike a large number of 1921 dimes struck at the Philadelphia Mint, many 1921-Ds do not display extreme peripheral weakness.
Interestingly, it is not unusual to see a 1921-D Mercury Dime with a die crack. Due to the extremely low mintage, this would probably not have been due to die fatigue. The cause more likely had to do with insufficient die hardening or incorrect collar machining.
Unlike the 1916-D, which was saved in comparatively large numbers due to it being a first-year coin, collectors did not recognize the rarity of the 1921-D and failed to save it in great numbers. As a result, many surviving examples of the 1921-D display significant wear.
That being said, collectors quickly realized their mistake, and by June 1961, coin dealer Lester Merkin was offering BU examples for $125 USD ($1,240 adjusted for inflation).
The 1921-D Mercury Dime in Today’s Market
As a true conditional rarity, the 1921-D Mercury dime is much more common in the lower than in higher grades. In fact, 71% of the total certified population are VF-35 or lower. With some 3,200 low-grade pieces available to collectors, type collectors should be able to acquire an example for less than $500 without too much trouble.
Population numbers start to drop in XF-40 and continue to decrease until low Mint State.
Handsome AU-58 examples with high levels of luster and only moderate weakness are selling for approximately $1,200.
Truly Uncirculated examples are much more valuable, with MS-64 examples costing nearly $2,900 and a high-Mint State (MS-67) example with a mottled golden-brown and purple-red toning selling recently for just under $6,000. The only higher non-“Full Bands” specimen, an MS-67+ with a green CAC sticker, was sold for an eye-watering $23,500 in 2021 by Legend Rare Coin Auctions. While it displays a more even toning, this coin is definitely comparable to the MS-67 Stacks Bowers example.
Since this type usually has a strong central strike, 66% of examples graded and certified as Mint State are Full Bands. More particular collectors denote the completeness of the dime’s strike by inspecting the torch on the reverse for full details. A torch with fully struck and delineated bands running horizontally across it is known as Full Bands ; this designation is used by both PCGS and NGC.
As can be expected, the FB designation provides a strong premium, with low-Mint State examples designated as FB claiming price tags around $1,000 higher than non-FB examples. For instance, Heritage Auctions sold a blast white example, with only slight weakness and a large obverse die crack, for $2,340 in January 2022. A comparable non-FB example will probably sell for between $1,300 and $1,500. Collectors should be ready to pay between $5,000-$10,000 for a solid MS-65 FB example, a range based purely off of eye appeal.
While the highest non-FB designation grade is MS-67, the auction record for this type is held by an MS-66+ sold by Heritage in January 2019 for $50,400. This coin’s frosty surfaces, sharp strike, and even gold toning were well deserving of its CAC sticker, and high price tag.
Adolph A. Weinman’s design features Liberty (of Thought) facing to the left. A winged cap adorns her head, tufts of hair curl around the base of the Phrygian cap on her forehead and behind her ear. A braid of hair wraps around the base of her neck. LIBERTY wraps around the top of the coin with letters spaced apart.
The letters “E” and “R” are partially obstructed by Liberty’s cap. The designer’s initials (W surmounting A) for “Adolph Weinman” appears behind Liberty’s neck below and to the left of the Y in LIBERTY. The date “1921” appears below the bust truncation, to the rear. A subtle basin creates a dish-like appearance in the field.
As is the case with the obverse, the reverse is adapted from Weinman. In the center, the fasces, a bundle of rods bound with leather around a central axe. The blade faces to the left. A curvilinear branch of olive leaves wraps behind the fasces. Wrapping around the top of the design is the legend: UNITED · STATES · OF · AMERICA. Around the bottom of the design is the denomination: ONE DIME. Two five-pointed stars separate the legend from the denomination. The motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM” (OUT OF MANY, ONE) appears to the right of the fasces, slightly below center. The Denver “D” mintmark can be found between the “E” of ONE and the olive branch.
The edge of the 1921-D Mercury dime is reeded.
Adolph Alexander Weinman was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States as a teenager. He studied and worked under such famous American sculptors as Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Daniel Chester French. Weinman is responsible for two of the most iconic coin designs in U.S. history: the Mercury or Winged Liberty dime and the Walking Liberty half dollar, both of which debuted in the annus mirabilis numismaticus of 1916. Weinman’s sons also became sculptors and coin designers, and the man himself taught such pupils as Peace dollar designer Anthony de Francisci. Adolph Weinman died in 1952.
|Year Of Issue:||1921|
|Mint Mark:||D (Denver)|
|Alloy:||.9000 Fine Silver|
|OBV Designer||Adolph A. Weinman|
|REV Designer||Adolph A. Weinman|