Mercury Dime Overview
Technically known as the Winged Liberty Dime, the Mercury Dime has been a favorite among collectors for decades. With pleasing designs and a relatively large amount of Mint State examples that have existed for many years, demand has been high for all dates in the series.
First designed in 1916 by sculptor Adolph Weinman, the Mercury Dime was put into production that same year. The mint continue to produce the Mercury Dime until 1945 when the Roosevelt Dime started to be used as America’s next dime.
On the obverse of the dime, a bust of Lady Liberty wearing a winged cap is centered and facing left. The date of mintage is found just under Liberty's neck and “IN GOD WE TRUST” is found just to the left of the bust. “LIBERTY” can be found along the top rim of the obverse.
The reverse is unique in that the main design is a Roman fasces, which is a hatchet surrounded by wooden rods and an olive branch. “E PLURIBUS UNUM” can be found just to the right of the fasces. The motto “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and the denomination “ONE DIME” follow each other along the rim.
Want to know more about the Mercury Dime as well as other collectible US dimes? Be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Collectible Dimes.
History of the 1920 Mercury Dime
In 1920, the Philadelphia mint produced so many Mercury Dimes that production was actually slowed the following years to help even out the number of Mercury Dimes in circulation.
The Mint at Philadelphia reported minting 59,030,000 Mercury Dime examples dated 1920.
Another interesting fact was that when the mint had to add the “2” in “1920,” the last digit of the date got pushed very close to the edge of the coin. This would result in the last digit in the date being removed after only a small amount of time in circulation.
Like all other Mercury Dimes, the 1920 Mercury Dime features a composition made up of 90% silver and 10% copper. Physical properties included a weight of 2.50 grams and a diameter of 17.91mm.
Easily Worn Rims On Mercury Dimes
One problem that was found to occur on almost every Mercury Dime after only a short time in circulation was that the rim would wear flat. Of course, this problem only affects those Mercury Dimes that are below the uncirculated grade.
There are three main properties of the Mercury Dime that led to the heavy rim wear.
First, the 90% silver composition of the Mercury Dime was definitely the largest source of the problem. Because silver is much softer than other metals used in coins like copper and nickel, it would flatten and wear away faster. Circulation resulted in the soft silver of the Mercury Dime becoming flattened and worn away.
Second, the actual size and width of the rims was another problem. In general, the rim on Mercury dimes was not all that tall. Combined with the fact that it was also very wide and flat meant that it would wear flat quickly.
The final factor was the actual circulation of the coin itself. Coins in the 1920s and 1930s had a much harder life than they do today. With an American economy that was based on cash and coins, Mercury Dimes were handled much more often than the average dime today.
All three of these factors created the perfect storm that resulted in many Mercury Dimes with worn rims. These worn rims would remove the date and begin to cover main parts of the design. Mercury Dimes that have a full rim that shows little wear are in high demand because most examples have some type of wear visible.
Valuing the 1920 Mercury Dime
Prices for the 1920 Mercury Dime span a large spectrum based on the coin’s grade. Due to the 90% silver composition, each coin at the very least is worth $1.25.
Low-grade examples from Good-4 to Fine-12 have a price range of around $2.50 to $3. Very Fine–20 sees a retail value of $5 and Extremely Fine–40 jumps to $7.25. Nice strikes with full rims are worth slightly more than the prices listed.
Uncirculated examples are going to come with the highest prices tag.
Currently, a MS-60 example is valued at $38. A jump to $78 is seen with the MS-63. Premium grade MS-65 examples command an impressive $250!
Many uncirculated examples exist for the 1920 Mercury Dime. Despite this, most uncirculated examples are still worth a significant premium over lower grade coins. This just demonstrates the demand for quality uncirculated Mercury Dimes.