There 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 Francisco.
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 nickel.
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.