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Bill Fivaz

Bill Fivaz Biography

The Marvelous
Mercury Dime

April 17, 2000

Bubba and Zemo


J.T. Stanton

J.T. Stanton Biography

Let's talk about one of the most popular series being collected today...the Mercury Dime.
Wasn't this series one of three new designs that made it's appearance just prior to the first great World War, in 1916.
Yes. Designed by A. A. Weinman, the Mercury Dime spans the 30 years between 1916 and 1945 and has a classic design appealing to just about every numismatist.
It is collected in all grades, with the 1916-D being the key to the series and the last one usually purchased for a complete set.
Additionally, there are two sub-sets, I call them the "short set" and the "long short set", which are well within just about anyone's budget, even in high mint state.
You love to complicate things, Z-man.
I like to think of it as making the collecting experience more enjoyable. The "short set" is comprised of the 1941 - 1945 issues, while the "long short set" starts in 1934 and goes through 1945. Collectors who have not explored this series should consider assembling either or both of these sets, especially the coins with "Full Split Bands".
What is a "Full Split Band" Mercury Dime?
A highpoint of the reverse, the two center "bands" on the fasces are the last area to strike up with full detail. When these two bands show a complete, unbroken incuse (depressed) line between them, and they are raised and rounded....
Bubba: McDonald's arches?
Sure, when raised and rounded like McDonald's arches, this equates to the ultimate... a full strike, which qualifies it as a "full split band" or "full band" coin.
Did you bring visual aids? I love pictures.
I brought a couple just for you, Bubba. The following are diagrams illustrating cross-section views of a no-band piece (none or incomplete separation between the bands), a split band (complete separation, but with flat, non-rounded bands), and a full split bands, with the full, deep separation as well as the "McDonald's Arches", well-rounded bands. This illustration appeared in the February 2000 issue of The Numismatist, the monthly publication of the American Numismatic Association.

Mercury Dime
OK, what about grading?
As with any portrait coin (such as any Barber series, Morgan and Peace Dollars, etc.), you should be very conscious of "hairlines" or slidemarks on the face when grading mint state Mercury Dimes.
I've seen so many of these coins with distracting, hard-to-see negative marks.
I suggest you develop a mind-set of "there are hair-lines on the face...find 'em!" when considering a purchase. After inspecting the cheek area closely with a good loupe, and after turning and tipping the coin under a good light, if you don't find the dreaded hairlines, you're probably home free.
And of course, I always ask about varieties.
There are two relatively unknown but very important varieties in the "short set" that I'd like to mention. Both are "S" mintmark styles, and both involve what is known as the "Trumpet Tail S" variety (see photo, below). The first is the 1941-S "Large S" variety, which is very scarce in any grade and rare in mint state.

Mercury Dime
The vast majority of this mintage was of the small s style.
The second is the Trumpet Tail S 1943-S. It is rare in any grade and extremely rare in mint state. Almost all of the 1943-S dimes were minted with the large style mintmark, with strong serifs on both the top and bottom of the S. The Trumpet Tail S on both the 1941-S and 1943-S dimes is characterized by a downward pointing serif on the top and a rounded serif on the bottom.
Resembling the bell of a trumpet, hence, its name.
The Short Set or Long Short Set of Mercury Dimes with Full Bands - a neat, affordable set to collect and one with a definite challenge for you if you decide to include the 1941-S and 1943-S Trumpet Tail S. Try it...and remember, you'll be in on the ground floor with the Trumpet Tail S varieties!

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