It?s easy to be overlooked in the Mercury dime set, despite the interest there has been in them over the years, but we have all gotten an oversimplified idea of best Mercury dime dates.
There is the 1916-D in something of a class by itself, unless you include the 1942/41 and 1942/41-D. In MS-65 with full split bands, there was the 1919-D and otherwise, except for the 1921 and 1921-D, all the Mercury dimes were basically in one large and rather ordinary group.
That was how most have seen the Mercury dime set over the years. A few might have been interested in dates like the three low-mintage dates of 1931, but realistically, while low mintage, it is also pretty well known that the 1931 dates were saved in some numbers, so they are not as tough as their mintages might suggest.
Then there is the 1926-S, a little-mentioned Mercury dime date that is a good deal better than many realize.
It is hard to imagine how the 1926-S became so obscure. It starts with the actual period as the mid-1920s were not a time when there were a lot of tougher dates whether they were Mercury dimes or anything else. There were a few lower mintage issues like the 1926-S Buffalo nickel and the 1927-D and 1927-S Standing Liberty quarters, but even these better dates, except in top grades, are not seen as all that special.
The situation is ironic, as dates like the 1926-S were not saved and we have learned over the years that even if there are numbers in Mint State, many times the San Francisco and Denver issues of the period were not struck all that well. It is less so with Mercury dimes, but the fact remains that even if there are supplies, you cannot simply assume that there will be top-grade examples, at least when it comes to the branch mints on a regular basis.
Into that atmosphere came the 1926-S, which was not likely to be heavily saved. The mintage of 1,520,000 was interesting, as it was somewhat lower than normal for a Mercury dime, but it didn?t stand out as unusual.
Later generations of collectors would start first with lower denominations and eventually get to things like Mercury dimes, meaning the 1926-S is not all that available in grades like XF-40. In fact, it is a little tougher than might be expected, even in G-4, where it lists for $9.
It is in Mint State, however, where the 1926-S is a lot tougher than expected. In MS-60, it lists for a high $900. In MS-65, it is $3,000, while an MS-65 with full split bands is currently at $6,500. Those are all premium prices and usually among the top 10 Mercury dimes.
It is natural to want to know how many coins there are at such prices. Numismatic Guaranty Corp. reports about 17 examples of the 1926-S in MS-65 or better, and another eight in MS-65 or better with full split bands. Professional Coin Grading Service has seen 26 examples of the 1926-S in MS-65 or better, while another 34 examples have been called MS-65 or better with full split bands. The totals from the two grading services are relatively low.
With a little better recognition, it is possible that the 1926-S would see somewhat higher prices. That said, in the Mercury dime set, it is still not going to be the key date or even a semi-key in any grade. It is doomed to be a better date and not much more, although with the numbers available, you have to think it deserves better.