Why the 1916-D Mercury Dime is Famous
By Paul M. Green
are many great coins, but there are really only
a few great rarities. There are also a few truly
legendary coins in terms of their popularity and
one of those true legends would have to be the
1916-D Mercury dime.
The 1916-D Mercury dime is one of those very few
coins that is truly special, having a demand
which is far greater than its supply. That said,
like the 1909-S VDB Lincoln, the 1916-D Mercury
dime is certainly a tough coin but not one which
is considered a great rarity. In fact, if you
check with the grading services, you will
discover that the 1916-D Mercury dime is
actually more available than other Mercury dimes
that cost a good deal less.
The 1916-D Mercury dime actually had lower
mintage than the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent by a
large margin. The reasons for the low 1916-D
mintage are unknown. It was certainly a very
busy year with three new designs appearing.
There was bound to be confusion, although the
general belief is that the new dime was the top
priority for early production. The dimes were
needed, a fact supported by the mintage of over
24 million Barber dimes at Philadelphia and San
What we do know is that there was a good deal of
interest in the new designs for the dime,
quarter and half dollar in 1916. While there was
interest and some saving, it was not the sort of
hoarding which would be seen in later years with
the 1931-S Lincoln cent or 1950-D Jefferson
In fact, some of the great hoards that came
later were really assembled by dealers. But Q.
David Bowers has discovered that the dealers
back in 1916 really had very little interest in
hoarding new issues, even if they had the
potential to be better because of low mintages.
In fact, Bowers has found that only a couple
dealers of the period even had "working
inventories" of the 1916 quarter and its mintage
was much lower than the 1916-D dime.
What we also know is that the 1916-D is the
bluest of blue chips in terms of price
increases. The demand is simply always greater
than the supply in every grade. Back in 1998 the
1916-D was $475 in G-4 but today it is $1,000.
It was $4,900 in MS-60 in 1998 but today it is
$13,750 while the MS-65 increase has been from
$11,350 in 1998 to $26,500 today. In MS-65 with
full split bands the 1998 price of $14,500 has
given way to a new price of $48,500.
Everyone can basically draw their own
conclusions, but the fact remains that the
1916-D is not as tough as the price suggest when
compared to other Mercury dimes. The difference
is the seemingly eternal and constant demand
from Mercury dime collectors, others who wanted
a 1916-D when they were young and can finally
afford one now that they are older, or dealers
who know you cannot go wrong with the 1916-D.