The 1942 Proof dime stands out as not only the last Proof of the Winged Liberty or “Mercury” dime series but also, thanks to World War II, the last Proof of the denomination until the United States Mint resumed production five years after the end of the war. With a relatively large mintage of 22,349 pieces struck at Philadelphia, the coin isn’t too difficult to collect in low to mid-Mint State. But like so many “high-mintage” issues, the 1942 Mercury dime Proof coin becomes a condition rarity in the highest grades. To emphasize this point, PCGS lists only three examples certified PR-69 (the present specimen being the “plate coin” on PCGS CoinFacts), and the most recent auction archive for the issue at this grade is from June 2015 when the coin sold for $37,600.
After a total of 52 bids, the coin went for $87,500 USD (before Buyer’s Fee).
To check GreatCollections for their sales of other rare and gem Mercury dimes–both with and without CAC approval–search through the GreatCollections Auction Archives, with records for over 600,000 certified coins the company has sold over the past seven years.
A Brief History of the Mercury Dime
The Mercury or Winged Liberty dime (1916-1945) has long stood as an iconic coin in the U.S. series. Adolph Weinman’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.
Heralded for its beauty, the Mercury dime 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?” in 1930, 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 dime is remembered as an elegant and practical coin.
Proofs were struck at the Philadelphia Mint each year from 1936 through 1942, when the manufacture of all Proof coins by the United States Mint was interrupted by the Second World War.
The Mercury dime’s term of service came to an unexpected end when on April 12, 1945, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died. 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.
So with that, the stellar 30-year run of the Winged Liberty dime came to an end. Over the next few decades, coins in circulation were worn 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 some scarce dates–were melted in the silver run-up of the early 1980s.