What Is the 2016-W Mercury Dime Centennial Gold Coin?
In 1916, Americans were introduced to three iconic U.S. coin designs: the Mercury or Winged Liberty dime, the Walking Liberty half dollar, and the Standing Liberty quarter. To mark the centennial of the release of these three coins, the United States Mint issued new versions of each in 24-karat (.9999 fine) gold struck at the West Point Mint. Each coin was reworked using state-of-the-art digital design tools and features the date “2016” on the obverse. The reverse of each centennial coin also denotes the coin’s weight and composition.
The 2016-W Mercury Dime Centennial gold coin was released on April 21, 2016. It was struck in an Uncirculated finish so as to resemble the 1916 dime. Its diameter (16.50 mm) is close to that of a regular Mercury dime (17.90 mm) despite containing one-tenth of an ounce of gold – a symbolic nod to the dime’s 10-cent denomination.
Besides describing some of the differences between the new coin and the original, the following video provides a 4K hands-on experience with a “perfect” example certified by NGC as SP70.
A Brief History of the Mercury (Winged Liberty) Dime
The original Winged Liberty dime entered circulation at the end of October 1916 and remained in production for nearly 30 years. Alongside the Walking Liberty half dollar and Standing Liberty quarter, it joined the Indian Head (Buffalo) nickel, the Lincoln cent, the Indian $2.50 quarter eagle and $5 half eagle gold coins, and the Saint-Gaudens $10 eagle and $20 double eagle gold coins in circulation.
It was truly a golden age of U.S. coin design.
Adolph Weinman’s elegant design for the Mercury dime drew heavily from the French Beaux Arts movement of the late 19th century. Its release immediately preceded the Roosevelt dime (1946-Present), and it was the last U.S. dime to be struck entirely in .900 silver.
Heralded for its beauty, the Winged Liberty dime–often referred to as the Mercury dime due to its classically inspired headgear–saw the country through both World Wars and the Great Depression. Its unmistakable design was attached to both the March of Dimes anti-polio campaign and countless Charles Atlas advertisements found in the back of comic books and magazines. When “Yip” Harburg wrote the song “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”, it was the Mercury dime he was talking about.
The dime’s use in circulation carried on without incident. The design didn’t have the striking problems of the Buffalo nickel or the Walking Liberty half. Although specialists might seek out perfectly struck examples with Full Split Bands on the reverse (scarce for some issues), the Mercury dime is remembered as an elegant and practical coin; a successful coin that served its purpose and elevated the image of American money.
The Mercury dime’s term of service came to an unexpected end when, on April 12, 1945, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died. Frail and aged beyond his 63 years, Roosevelt suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage while on vacation in Georgia. His death reverberated throughout America and the world.
Almost immediately, a movement began to honor Roosevelt on a circulating coin. The dime was the obvious choice as the denomination recalled both Franklin’s battle with polio and his work with the March of Dimes, and on May 17, Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr. announced that the Winged Liberty design would be replaced by a new design featuring the portrait of the late president.
So with that, the stellar 30-year run of the Winged Liberty or Mercury Head dime came to an end. Steadily, the coins in circulation wore down, Mint State examples were hoarded, rare dates and varieties were cherrypicked, and by the time silver coins exited the scene in the mid to late 1960s, only the most worn examples continued to circulate.
Release, Sellout, and Re-Release of the 2016-W Mercury Dime Centennial Gold Coin
As stated earlier, the 2016-W Mercury Dime gold coin was released on April 21, 2016. Priced at $205 USD according to the Mint’s pricing schedule for gold and platinum products at the time, it had a mintage limit of 125,000 pieces and an initial order limit of 10 coins per household. Each piece was sealed in a circular capsule and came with an elegant, custom-designed black-matte hardwood presentation case and a Certificate of Authenticity.
Within 15 minutes of the coin’s noon Eastern Time release on the Mint’s website, the order status had already been changed to “Backorder”. Less than an hour after its release, the 2016-W Mercury Dime gold coin was listed as “Unavailable” by 12:45 PM. This meant that all available inventory had been allotted to fill customer orders and was not quite the same as a complete lack of the entire authorized mintage.
But like any other product, some of these orders were soon canceled, either by the Mint (payment failed to process, bad account information, etc.) or by customers themselves. According to CoinWeek’s news coverage, the Mint reported sales of 122,510 coins out of the 125,000 total mintage by Sunday, April 24. And after customers had time to receive their coins in the mail, returns began to come back. Because of these factors, the Mint still had 8,889 pieces by the middle of the year.
Frustratingly for collectors, however, the Mint did not make these available for purchase and had no set plans to do so. Adding to collector anxiety was the fact that the Mint’s pricing schedule was subject to change, and every additional week of delay meant that the price could be much higher than it was upon initial release (it could also have been lower, but that is beside the point).
It wasn’t until the end of the year that the U.S. Mint announced the resumption of sales of the 2016-W Mercury Dime Centennial gold coin on December 15. After being criticised for the original order limit of 10 per “household”–an arrangement that many felt favored dealers and bulk buyers at the expense of regular collectors–the Mint sold these final coins at one per household.
A final total mintage of 124,885 was eventually reported – 115 less than the maximum.
Certified Populations of the 2016-W Mercury Dime Centennial Gold Coin in Today’s Market
Since it began grading and authenticating U.S. coins in June 2023, CAC has yet to certify any 2016-W Mercury Dime gold coins.
Categorized as an Anniversary Coin, NGC reports a total of 27,709 certified grading events for the gold Mercury Dime at the time of publication. The top pop grade of Specimen 70 (SP70) accounts for most of them, with 24,839 examples. Two thousand, eight hundred and fifty-five coins are listed as SP69, 11 are graded SP68, and three are reported at SP67. This kind of top-heavy certified population pyramid is seen with modern collector coin issues that are bought in bulk with the express purpose of grading and immediately reselling them – i.e., “flipping”.
The auction record for any 2016-W Mercury Dime Centennial gold coin is $2,000 for a specimen certified NGC Genuine that was sold in November 2019 on eBay.
As far as NGC-certified SP70s go, Stack’s Bowers sold an example for $384 in June 2023, but prices from 2022 average to about $400. Prices for the same grade in 2021 average to around $350. And looking at auction records from 2020, when more NGC examples were sold than PCGS specimens, the average price for an NGC SP70 2016-W Mercury Dime gold coin is almost $320. Appreciation in the secondary market appears steady, with premiums gaining on $200 over the initial retail price – a doubling of value over seven years.
Also at the time of publication, PCGS has graded a total of 31,984 2016-W Mercury Dime gold coins. The vast majority of those coins–28,958–achieved a perfect grade of SP70. The numbers drop exponentially as we go down to “merely” Gem quality, with 3,001 reported at SP69, 22 listed at SP68, and two given for SP67. PCGS categorizes the gold Mercury dime, the gold Standing Liberty quarter, and the gold Walking Liberty half dollar as the 2016 Centennial Series.
PCGS-certified SP70 examples have tended to fare slightly better than those graded by NGC in recent public sales. Most of the gold Mercury Dimes sold in 2023 so far have been in PCGS holders, and those prices average to over $420. The year 2022 saw auction lots more evenly split between PCGS and NGC, and PCGS prices averaged to a little over $400. PCGS SP70 specimens sold for an average of $370 in 2021, and almost $340 the year prior. The pricing trend is almost identical to that of NGC-certified SP70s, with just a slight bump (~$20) in premium.
Drawn from Adolph A. Weinman’s original design, but not identical. The 2016 version features Liberty (of Thought) facing to the left. A winged cap adorns her head, tufts of hair curl around the base of the pileus 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 “2016” 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, fasces. An axe 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. Wrapping around the bottom of the design is the denomination: ONE DIME. Two five-pointed stars separate the legend from the denomination. The W mint mark of the West Point Mint is located to the right of ONE. The motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM” (OUT OF MANY, ONE) appears to the right of the fasces, slightly below center. Below the motto, the coin’s composition and weight is described: AU 24K (.9999 Fine) 1/10 OZ. The field is slightly dish-like.
The 2016-W Mercury Dime Centennial Gold Coin has reeded edges that resemble the edge reeding on the 1/10th-ounce American Gold Eagle bullion coin. This reeding is more pronounced and precise than the reeding on an original business strike Winged Liberty silver dime.
|Year Of Issue:||2016|
|Alloy:||.9999 Fine Gold|
|OBV Designer||Adolph A. Weinman|
|REV Designer||Adolph A. Weinman|
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