The Mercury or Winged Liberty dime (1916-1945) has long stood as an iconic coin the U.S. series. The coin’s elegant design draws heavily from the French Beaux Arts movement of the late 19th century. Its release immediately preceded the Roosevelt dime (1946-Present), and it is the last U.S. dime to be struck entirely in .900 silver.
In the year of the coin’s initial release, Americans were introduced to what would become three iconic U.S. coin designs. The other two were the Walking Liberty half dollar (also designed by Adolph Weinman and the basis of the American Silver Eagle bullion coin’s obverse design) and the Standing Liberty quarter (designed by Massachusetts-based sculptor Hermon Atkins MacNeil). These coins joined the Indian Head (Buffalo) nickel, the Lincoln cent, the Indian quarter eagle and half eagle, and the Saint-Gaudens $10 and $20 gold coins.
It was truly a golden age of U.S. coin design.
To mark the centennial of the release of these three coins, the United States Mint has issued new versions in .9999 fine gold. Each coin has been reworked using state-of-the-art digital design tools and features the date “2016” on the obverse. The reverse of each coin denotes the coin’s weight and composition.
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.
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 years, Roosevelt suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage while on vacation in Warm Springs, Georgia. He was 63 years old.
Roosevelt’s death reverberated throughout America and the world.
A transformative President, FDR worked alongside allies to defeat the axis powers in World War II. He established a social safety net for millions of Americans after a debilitating global depression and set in place a system of income distribution that created the vibrant American middle class that ushered in a prolonged period of postwar economic prosperity.
But more than this, Roosevelt understood retail politics. His fireside chats gave the country strength at times of great adversity. His loss was suffered with shock and despair, his funeral tour was reminiscent of the one undertaken 80 years earlier after the traumatic death of Abraham Lincoln. One anecdote concerns an encounter with a weeping man, who was asked by the press if he had known FDR. The man replied, “I didn’t know him. But he knew me.”
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.
On May 17, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., who served as Treasury Secretary under Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, announced that the Winged Liberty dime design would be replaced by a new design featuring the portrait of the late president. It was expected that the Roosevelt dime would debut at the end of the year, but the new dime was not released until 1946.
So with that, the stellar 30-year run of the Winged Liberty 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.
Untold tens of thousands of original Mercury dimes, including, unfortunately, some scarce dates, were melted in the silver run-up of the early 1980s. While a number of conditional rarities exist, the series is generally remembered for two key-dates: the 1916-D and the scarce 1942/1941 overdate.
The 2016-W Mercury Dime Centennial Gold Coin mintage was set at 125,000 pieces. The coin was struck in an uncirculated finish, to as to resemble the 1916 dime. Proof issues of the Winged Liberty dime series were struck from 1936-1942. No Proof examples were issued in 1916.
The 2016-W Winged Liberty dime was released on April 21, 2016. At launch, the United States Mint set the initial offering price for the coin at $205. Each coin is encapsulated and comes with an elegant, custom-designed black-matte hardwood presentation case and a Certificate of Authenticity.
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|