It might not have the lowest mintage, but increasingly the 1917-D Mercury time is becoming recognized as a better date in the series. It still has to take a backseat to the 1916-D, but if trends continue, the 1917-D will remain one of the tougher and more expensive Mercury dimes in top grades.
The road to recognition for the 1917-D has been a very long one. With a mintage of 9,042,000, it was certain to be in the shadow of the 1916-D with its mintage of just 264,000. However, it is the lowest mintage of the coins struck in 1917.
As the years passed, things did not improve for the 1917-D. The 1921 and 1921-D came along and they were viewed as far better than the 1917-D, which by that time was being lumped in with the 1919-D and 1919-S as other Mercury dimes with mintages under 10 million but still not special.
There was no improvement in he 1920s and 1930s. It was a period when many Mercury dimes had lower mintages unless they were made in Philadelphia. When the Great Depression took hold, even Philadelphia mintages fell below 10 million.
Like any second year of a new design, the 1917-D was not saved in great numbers. The better than 55 million 1917 coins from Philadelphia would not have helped perceptions of the coins made in that year as being potentially scarce.
If we look at the New York Subway Hoard, which was formed in the early 1940s, there is no doubt that even the 1916-D, 1921 and 1921-D coins could still be found in fairly large numbers long after issue. Even as recently as the late 1950s there was an outside chance of finding at least the 1921 and 1921-D coins in circulation. That was nearly 40 years after the 1916-D had been released and perhaps 35 years after the 1921 and 1921-D coins were issued. It is a long time for any coin to circulate, but if keys and semi-keys were still available many years after they were produced, there can be no doubt that the 1917-D lasted a long time as well.
If you had looked in circulation in the 1950s and encountered a 1917-D, it would have been well worn. In fact, in any number of cases it might have been nearly impossible to identify as the rim would wear into the inner part of the design perhaps obscuring the mintmark.
The current G-4 price of the 1917-D of $4.30 is higher than for many other dates of the period, indicating some scarcity.
If you look at its prices in higher grades, you will see it moves fairly significantly between F-12 and VF-20 and again in XF-40 and AU-50. Its MS-60 price of $120 is above average, but it is in MS-65 at $1,100 that puts the 1917-D in a group of perhaps 15 of the best non-error dates.
In MS-65 with full split bands, the 1917-D also is part of an expensive group, but it is not in the spotlight alone. The $5,650 price proves it is valuable. In fact, it is more valuable than many coins with lower mintages. But it still numbers in a group of 14 coins with a price higher than $5,000 in the grade.
For the 1917-D, this is enough. It is a reminder that coins that might have seemed common can become much more desirable as the result of lack of saving, circulating for many years and with some brushes with the melting pot thrown in.
If there was ever a Mercury dime that was a working date, it would certainly be the 1917-D, a date that just circulated and circulated until many of them were quite literally worn out.
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