Mercury Dimes

At the show Sunday, dealers displayed slabbed 1916D Mercury Dimes.

Interestingly, there’s a story going around coin circles about someone taking Mercury Dimes (not a 1916D, we hope) to a coin roadshow somewhere – one of those that advertizes for you to bring your gold and silver coins and jewelry to sell to them at their rented hotel rooms.

It seems this person with the Mercury Dimes was told that the dimes were not valuable since the “W” mint mark (for the US Mint location in West Point, New York) was not valid on Mercury Dimes. Well, it’s true that the West Point, New York mint did not mint coins during the Mercury Dimes era, 1916 through 1945.

In fact, the West Point location began as a storage facility for silver in 1937 and became known as the “Fort Knox of Silver.” It did mint cents from 1973 to 1986, but it did not become an official mint until 1988. Still a storage facility, today the West Point Mint strikes gold, silver and platinum coins for commemorative and bullion sales.

Oh, in 1996, the West Point Mint did mint a dime, but it was an uncirculated Roosevelt Dime for inclusion in that year’s mint set.

But, why would the hotel buyer claim the Mercury Dimes had “W” mint marks?

Well, today’s coinage generally has the mint mark located very prominently on the front, obverse, of the coin, primarily near the date. For the Mercury Dimes, the mint mark was placed on the reverse near the edge and just to the right of the “E” in “ONE.” Actually, the mint mark can be difficult to find without a loupe or magnifying glass.

For the Mercury Dime, the artist’s initials are easy to see on the obverse just to the right of Liberty’s neck. Of course, the initials are “AW” for Adolf A. Weinman. Lacking numismatic knowledge, the hotel buyer mistook the artist’s initials for a mint mark. Though, we’re not sure what he thought about the “A” in the “AW.”

Most people who know and understand coins will not take coins they want to sell to a hotel buyer.  Hotel buyers are much different from hotel coin shows. Coin shows have many different, knowledgeable dealers with a variety of interests who sell and buy at the show. Hotel buyers, on the other hand, represent a company or companies who only buy. They also only buy at rates where they can make a significant profit even after they pay their hotel, travel and business expenses.

If you plan to visit a hotel buyer to sell gold or silver coins or jewelry, make sure you research what you are selling such that you know an approximate worth and can readily accept or refuse their offer.

Plus, if you spend a little time on your education, the hotel buyer’s comment about the “W” mint mark on the Mercury Dimes would easily be recognized as nonsense.

Oh, by the way, if one (or more) of those Mercury Dimes was a 1916D, then you would want to sell to someone who understands the numismatic values not just the silver melt values. A low-end 1916D could be worth $1000, and a high end could be over $40,000.

The late Jim Rohn said, “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” In this case, a little self-education could “save” you a fortune.