This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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There is never going to be a major demand for the 1917-D Mercury dime except from regular Mercury dime collectors. The 1917-D is typical of many good dates in the set as it is a lot better than some prices would indicate, but it may be very hard to get anyone to recognize it.
It is safe to suggest that the 1916-D Mercury dime dwarfs all the others with the exception of the 1942/41 and 1942/41-D overdates. With its important role in history and mintage of 264,000, the assumption is that the 1916-D is all that really matters and the other dates will tag along in price.
Because the 1917-D came along exactly one year after the 1916-D from the same facility, it will always be in the shadow. After all, the 1917-D had a mintage of 9,402,000.
In fairness, the 1917-D has not only been in the shadow of the 1916-D. There were a number of other dates as well. That 9,402,000 mintage seems low today but it was hardly low for a Mercury dime. In fact, branch mints tended to have totals of less than 10 million well into the 1930s.
The 1917-D is interesting today. At $4.30 it is more expensive in G-4 than a lot of lower mintage dates. The reason is possibly that so many examples of the 1917-D circulated for so long they were simply retired or if they were saved they were in such low grades they were sold as silver in the late 1970s. That is not the ideal way to increase circulated prices. It is also a possibility that with wear the rim simply obscured the mintmark.
In Mint State the 1917-D would be expected to have a fairly small supply. It was, after all, the second year of the Mercury dime and it was released in Denver where there were not many dime collectors. This raises the suspicion that the 1917-D was not saved by the roll or bag.
In MS-60 the 1917-D is $120, which is a relatively average price for an earlier branch mint date. In fact, that price is actually down from $125 in the late 1990s. In MS-65, the 1917-D is $1,100, which again, is fairly average. That too is down from the late 1990s when it was at $1,825. That is really a significant decline.
A legitimate question is whether the 1917-D is really available in a grade like MS-65. If we check totals at Professional Coin Grading Service, we find that they have seen just 10 examples in MS-65 or better and 31 in MS-65 or better with full split bands. By comparison, PCGS has seen 55 examples of the 1916-D in MS-65 with or without full split bands, and it is $26,500 in MS-65 and $48,500 in MS-65 with full split bands. At Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, they have seen fewer than 20 examples of the 1917-D in MS-65 and in MS-65 with full split bands, while the 1916-D total is well into the 30s in assorted grades of MS-65 and up.
Clearly the 1917-D is not in a league with the 1916-D in terms of demand as the 1916-D has higher than normal demand. However, the 1917-D is also not in the same league in terms of price and that is a little surprising because as is seen at both of the major grading services, the 1917-D is actually tougher than the far more famous 1916-D.
The 1917-D may not be in the same class as the 1916-D, but the grading service numbers give us solid reason to think that at today’s prices a 1917-D might be a very good deal.