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Anyone buying circulated Mercs?

This week’s letter section has a submission from a reader suggesting that the 1916-D Mercury dime is an overvalued coin. I look forward to seeing how readers react to this opinion.


In circulated grades, it certainly might be. When I was a kid, the Mercury dime set was one of the most widely collected series. The 1916-D was the key.

Buying a 1916-D was the end game. If you had put a set of Mercury dimes together in VF, you’d buy a VF 1916-D. If your set was VG, you’d buy a VG.

It was simple and straightforward. Nowadays, most new collectors of Mercury dimes seem to focus on the top Mint State grades. The Coin Market price guide shows an MS-65 at $24,000. The same grade with Full Split Bands is $48,500.

I won’t be buying either one at those prices. No average Numismatic News reader will be buying them, either. But somewhere there are collectors, motivated by registry set fame, assembling high grade Mercury sets.

At the low end, where I might once have considered shelling out $625 for a good 1916-D or even $3,600 for a VF-20, there are far more collectors hanging it up. Their circulated sets are coming back to the commercial sector. Who is going to buy the key date?

Where once the personal sense of satisfaction on completing a set would have been the motivation for writing a large check to make the purchase of a 1916-D, there is now a question.

If I pay this money for a circulated key date, will there be another buyer down the line who will be willing to pay me or my heirs a similar sum for it? I have my doubts. Perhaps that is why I have never purchased a 1916-D.

Mintage of the 1916-D is 264,000. A half century ago when I began assembling my set, Mercury dimes were still used. I was able to find most dates before silver completely disappeared from change.

There were probably hundreds of thousands of collectors who had done the same thing. Their level of success would have depended on when they started.

But these circulated sets are not something that conveys bragging rights today. The Dave Harper partial Mercury dime set is never going to be a listed item in a major numismatic auction.

Where will all those circulated key 1916-D Mercury dimes go?

There are thousands, tens of thousands, perhaps even most of the mintage surviving. Who will buy them?

In our field, there is seldom a dramatic half price sale on some specific item. More likely, the listed price just stays right about where it is for years on end.

In preparing price charts for the next edition of my book, North American Coins and Prices, the peak 1916-D price for an F-12 was $2,700 in 2009. It now is $2,115.

Will that 2009 figure be the all-time peak for that particular circulated condition? That depends on how other readers feel. When was the last time you bought a circulated Mercury for your set?

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

More Collecting Resources

• Keep up to date on prices for Canada, United States and Mexico coinage with the 2017 North American Coins & Prices guide.

• The Standard Catalog of United States Paper Money is the only annual guide that provides complete coverage of U.S. currency with today’s market prices.