The 1921 Mercury dime is a coin that used to get a good deal of attention. In recent years, however, the 1921 does not seem to have the same following. Perhaps it is because dimes have, as a group, been slow. Or perhaps it is a case where, with the focus on Mercury dimes with full split bands, the 1921 has drifted into the background.
Whatever the reason – or perhaps reasons – the fact remains that the 1921 has a long history of being seen as one of the twin semi-key dates of 1921 in the Mercury dime set.
Actually, part of the reason we may hear less about the 1921 Mercury dime is the fact that it and the 1921-D are the semi-key dates of the regular dates in a set in circulated grades.
The focus on higher grades has also had an impact. At least until the 1960s, the Mercury dimes you needed to know, not counting the overdates, were the 264,000 mintage 1916-D followed by the 1,080,000 mintage 1921-D and then the 1,230,000 mintage 1921. That was the basic list. There were other lower mintage regular dates, especially from the period around 1930. But despite their mintages, they were seen as being more available than the 1921 or 1921-D.
The story behind the 1921, as well as the 1921-D, is basically the simple fact that 1921 was not a normal year. The United States, thanks to the Pittman Act, had melted more than 270 million silver dollars back in 1918. The dollars were needed not for regular commerce but to back Silver Certificates. Without them, the government had to issue short term notes that paid 2 percent interest. That made replacing the dollars a high priority to avoid paying additional interest.
In the rush to produce silver dollars, the production of all other denominations suffered, especially in 1921 and 1922. The mintages of many denominations were much lower during those years than was normal and we see that in the fact that the Mercury dime was not even made at all three of the facilities in 1921.
The price difference between the 1921 and 1921-D has actually expanded some over the years. Today, in G-4, the 1921 is at $60, while the 1921-D is at $78. In MS-60, the two are still fairly close with the 1921 at $1,175 and the 1921-D at $1,325.
In MS-65 the two have historically been close in price, and that proves true today with the 1921 at $3,100 and the 1921-D at $3,250. In MS-65 with full split bands, the 1921 again falls behind the 1921-D with a price of $4,350 while the 1921-D is at $5,200.
The one observation that can be made from the prices is that the 1921 and 1921-D remain very important regular date Mercury dimes, at least through MS-65. So while not discussed much, there has not been a significant change in their importance.