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The Mercury or Winged Liberty dime (1916-1945) has long stood as an iconic coin in the U.S. series. The coin’s elegant design draws heavily from the French Beaux Arts movement of the late 19th century. Its release immediately preceded the Roosevelt dime (1946-Present), and it is the last U.S. dime to be struck entirely in .900 silver.
In the year of the coin’s initial release, Americans were introduced to what would become three iconic U.S. coin designs. The other two were the Walking Liberty half dollar (also designed by Adolph Weinman and the basis of the American Silver Eagle bullion coin’s obverse design) and the Standing Liberty quarter (designed by Massachusetts-based sculptor Hermon Atkins MacNeil). These coins joined the Indian Head (Buffalo) nickel, the Lincoln cent, the Indian quarter eagle and half eagle by Bela Lyon Pratt, and the Saint-Gaudens $10 and $20 gold coins.
It was truly a golden age of U.S. coin design.
Adolph A. Weinman’s design features Liberty (of Thought) facing to the left. A winged cap adorns her head, tufts of hair curl around the base of the pileus cap on her forehead and behind her ear. A braid of hair wraps around the base of her neck. LIBERTY wraps around the top of the coin with letters spaced apart.
The letters E and R are partially obstructed by Liberty’s cap. The designer’s initials (W surmounting A) for “Adolph Weinman” appears behind Liberty’s neck below and to the left of the Y in LIBERTY. The date “1916” appears below the bust truncation, to the rear. A subtle basin creates a dish-like appearance in the field.
As is the case with the obverse, the reverse is adapted from Weinman. In the center, fasces. An axe blade faces to the left. A curvilinear branch of olive leaves wraps behind the fasces. Wrapping around the top of the design is the legend: UNITED · STATES · OF · AMERICA. Wrapping around the bottom of the design is the denomination: ONE DIME. Two five-pointed stars separate the legend from the denomination. The D mint mark of the Denver Mint is located to the right of ONE. The motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM” (OUT OF MANY, ONE) appears to the right of the fasces, slightly below center.
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