US Coins

Winged Liberty Head dime turns 100

First segment of cover feature published in its entirety in the Feb. 1, 2016, Monthly issue of Coin World:

The Winged Liberty Head dime, also known as the Mercury dime, is turning 100 and to celebrate the occasion, the United States Mint will strike and issue a 2016 .9999 tenth-ounce gold re-creation of the coin, one of sculptor Adolph A. Weinman’s most recognizable, enduring works.

The gold dimes, struck without Mint mark, are to be produced on the same diameter planchets used to produce American Eagle tenth-ounce gold bullion coins at the West Point Mint.

The Mint has authority to issue gold coins of certain kinds, so no approval was needed other than that from the Treasury Department. 

Some numismatists have suggested that the Mint issue a 2016 anniversary piece in .900 fine silver to make the issue more affordable and available to more collectors. So far, U.S. Mint officials have not heeded that advice, however, as doing so would apparently require congressional approval. 

The Winged Liberty Head dime series is extremely popular with many collectors; some of them began in the hobby by retrieving examples from general circulation more than 50 years ago, filling slots in blue Whitman coin folders by date and Mint mark.

Struck between 1916 and 1945, with no production recorded during the years 1922, 1932 and 1933, the Winged Liberty Head dime series contains no definitive rarities as collecting obstacles.

Even the 1916-D dime from the series’ inaugural year, with the lowest mintage of 264,000 pieces, is readily available, although, depending on condition, the price can be high.

The prime concern with a 1916-D dime is authenticity. A buyer must ensure that the coin being purchased is genuine, not a counterfeit or altered piece.

The 1921 Winged Liberty Head dime from the Philadelphia Mint, with a mintage of 1.23 million coins, and the 1921-D dime from the Denver Mint, with a recorded output of 1.08 million coins, carry higher premiums as well.

In addition, two overdates (each a particular kind of doubled die) from the 1942 production year were struck at two different production facilities — the Philadelphia and Denver Mints.

From the final year of production, 1945, collectors may look for the 1945-S Micro S dime from the San Francisco Mint’s production of 40,245,000 coins.

The Micro S Mint mark is considerably smaller than the mark left by the normal S punch of 1945. The Micro S variety is the only Mint mark punch of this type and dimension known to have been employed in San Francisco Mint production in the 1940s.

Collectors should also be aware of another superlative that can affect price — Full Bands. Many Winged Liberty Head dimes exhibit striking weakness from metal flow issues, particularly in the region of the center horizontal band on the fasces on the reverse. Weakness is less noticeable on the lower horizontal band.

The bands comprise two parallel lines with a separation or “split” between them. Although some numismatists refer to this separation as “Full Split Bands,” the major grading services define this separation on the grading label solely as “Full Bands.”

The term “Full Bands” defines Winged Liberty Head dimes that exhibit distinct separation between both parallel lines in the center horizontal band.

Coins designated “Full Bands,” even if exhibiting striking weakness in other areas, generate significant premiums over coins without Full Bands.

The only obstacle to collecting the Winged Liberty Head dime series, if there is one, is determining what grade of coins you will be pleased to collect while meeting the eventual cost of such a collection.

Read the rest of this feature on the Winged Liberty Head dime's 100th anniversary:

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