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The 1942/1 Mercury Dimes

By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez - July 22, 2022

The Mercury Dime is one of the most widely collected of all dimes, and this is usually carried out in the fashion of date-and-mintmark collecting. The canon of Mercury Dimes is generally recognized to include the major 1916-D key date, two semi-keys in the scarce 1921 and 1921-D issues, and three varieties — the 1942/1 and 1942/1-D overdates as well as the 1945-S Micro S. The 1945-S Micro S is the most common of the varieties, while the two 1942/1 overdates are handily the scarcest.

The 1942/1 and 1942/1-D Mercury Dimes are popular overdates. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click images to enlarge.

Overdate varieties are quite uncommon among 20th century coinage, produced at a time when the United States Mint had generally moved on from its more miserly practices of the 19th century of reusing dies for long stretches by repunching dates to stretch a die another year — or more. Frugality wasn’t the mother of these modern-day Mercury Dime overdates, but rather a hasty oversight or two. As Walter Breen explains in his Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins (Doubleday, 1988), dies for 1941 Mercury dimes were being hubbed in the autumn of that year just as were dies for the 1942 output. Between hubbing impressions, at least two of the dies had been switched between the 1941 and 1942 hubs, which were being used simultaneously.

While there are no known official figures on exactly how many overdates were produced, PCGS estimates there are about 3,600 of the Philadelphia 1942/1 overdates while the Denver strikes are a bit scarcer (most notably so in uncirculated grades), with about 3,200 surviving. An example of the Philadelphia specimen goes for about $400 in G4 and $650 graded XF40, while its Denver counterpart fetches about $350 and $700 in those same grades. These coins are decidedly rare in Mint State grades; in MS60 the Philadelphia issue goes for $2,750 and the Denver emission takes $3,000. Specimens with Full Bell Lines command sharp premiums.

The 1942/1 Mercury Dime overdates coins are extremely popular — they’re among the most recognizable varieties, right up there with the 1955 Doubled Die Lincoln Cent and 1937 Three-Legged Buffalo Nickel. For that reason, the 1942/1 Mercury Dimes are also widely faked. A great many pieces that are posing as 1942/1 Mercury Dimes carry altered dates.

The 1942/1 Mercury Dime up close.
Courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click image to enlarge.
A closeup of the 1942/1-D Mercury Dime.
Courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click image to enlarge.

The buyer is advised to buy specimens that have been encapsulated by Professional Coin Grading Service. The images above provide key diagnostics of the 1942/1 and 1942/1-D Mercury Dimes, and if a buyer is considering an example that does not match these images they should run, not walk, away from purchasing them.

Article provided by PCGS at
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