Collectors love 1942 Mercury dimes, which are part of the series of 90% silver coins known more formally as the “Winged Liberty Head” dime. Designed by renowned artist Adolph A. Weinman in 1916, the series ran until 1945. It earned its more common “Mercury” moniker because of Miss Liberty’s striking resemblance to the ancient Roman god of the same name.
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The Mercury dime is considered one of the most beautiful small coins the United States Mint ever produced. It remains popular today, even many decades after the last pieces rolled off the presses.
Some Mercury dimes are rare, such as the famous 1916-D key date, though many others are common. That is certainly the case with the 1942 Mercury dime, which was struck by the many millions. Regular-issue business-strike examples are among the most common Mercury dimes you’ll encounter. They are often equally distributed with other ultra-common Mercury dimes.
Purchasers of pre-1965 90% junk silver can find many 1942 Mercury dimes, since a well-worn silver dime is just worth current silver melt value.
And while most 1942 Mercury dimes are readily available, not all are. There are several types of valuable and scarce 1942 Mercury dimes. These include two famous die varieties, a proof coin, and uncirculated condition dimes with Full Bands details in the fasces on the reverse. Each of these various types of 1942 Mercury dimes are covered in greater detail just below.
A Breakdown of 1942 Mercury Dimes
1942-D Mercury dime. Image: USA CoinBook
Those who specialize in Mercury dime coin collecting know that 1942 represents one of the most complex years in the series. This starts with the three regular-issue strikes from the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco Mints. It also includes the Philadelphia proof—the last proof coin of this series.
Finally, the two 1942/1 overdate varieties from the Philadelphia and Denver Mints are needed for an entire Mercury dime set. These overdate errors are particularly scarce and command significant premiums. Then there are the Full Split Bands strikes, which can be found among Mercury dimes of any year but are sought-after for the 1942 date.
Aside some scarce varieties and conditional rarities, the 1942 Mercury dime is by and large a common coin.
Here’s a look at 1942 Mercury dime production:1942 – 205,410,000 (Philadelphia - no mint mark)1942-D – 60,740,000 (Denver)1942-S – 49,300,000 (San Francisco)1942 proof – 22,329 (Philadelphia - no mint mark)
*All varieties are included in their respective issue’s mintage
1942 Mercury Dime Values
Earlier, it was mentioned that poor condition 1942 Mercury dimes are worth around their weight at silver spot price. While this is certainly true, specimens in better condition are considerably more valuable.
This is the case for less worn 1942 Mercury dimes as well as for their uncirculated counterparts. As displayed below, XF40 Extremely Fine condition and MS65 Mint State condition 1942 dimes are coins worth more than well-worn examples.
Prices for 1942 Mercury Dimes
*Values are for problem-free examples
Examples showing Full Bands detail, commonly abbreviated as “FB,” are worth even more still. (Full Bands Mercury dimes are sometimes referred to as "Full Split Bands.") Comparing the prices of "regular" MS65 1942 dimes to the same grade in MS65 FB illustrates their rarity.1942 FB – $401942-D FB – $401942-S FB – $125
Meanwhile, the 1942 proof Mercury dime is worth an impressive $175 in Proof PF65 condition. 1942 represented the last year of proof production for United States coins until 1950, several years after World War II ended.
And how about those rare 1942/1 Mercury dime overdates (shown below)? While not technically part of the regular-issue run, these rare coins are often included in more advanced sets of Mercury dimes.
1942 "42 over 41" Mercury dime overdate. Image: USA CoinBook
These two varieties, along with the 1945-S "micro S," are needed for the 80-coin complete set of Mercury dimes. Indeed, these are expensive coins on a similar level of popularity and scarceness as the 1916-D Mercury dime. Either one of these overdates in XF40 go for around $550, while the MS65 versions ring up at $12,000!
While these overdate varieties are quite expensive, they’re exciting and necessary additions for any serious Mercury dime set.
Building A Mercury Dime Set
A coin collector may spend many years looking for Mercury silver dimes in pocket change only to come up empty handed. While Mercury dimes were still among the daily finds in circulation as recently as the 1960s, these coins have gotten much tougher to locate. Physical attrition and hoarding of coins for their silver content removed many Mercury dimes from circulation.
A coin collector can simply buy a 1942 Mercury dime from a coin dealer and, like that, the search is over. But what fun is that, quickly ending the adventure with a single purchase that may cost less than $5 or $10?
Pile of Mercury dimes
A single Mercury dime can be the very thing that kicks off an incredible collection of these coins. This could be a complete 77-coin set that spans the entire 29-year run of the series. An alternative is the Mercury Dimes from 1941–1945, which makes a handsome WWII-era short set.
A single Mercury dime can also serve as the representative of the entire series in a larger type set of coins. One ambitious project requiring a Mercury dime is a complete dime type set.
A complete type set of dimes goes back to the original Draped Bust dime of 1796. Such a type set would also include at least one Capped Bust dime, Seated Liberty dime, Barber dime, and a Roosevelt dime. More complex type sets might include popular varieties among each of the designs listed here. Another great collection is the 20th-century type set including one example of each coin design struck from 1900 to 1999 (or 1901 to 2000).
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Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez is a journalist, editor, and blogger who has won multiple awards from the Numismatic Literary Guild. He has also authored numerous books, including works profiling the history of the United States Mint and United States coinage.