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Classic Coinage Revived: The 2016 Centennial Series Gold Mercury Dime, Standing Liberty Quarter & Walking Liberty Half Dollar

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2016 Centennial Series, 2016-W 50C 100th Anniversary, PCGS SP70. Click image to enlarge.

Three of the most beloved coins of the 20th century are the Winged Liberty Head (or “Mercury”) Dime, Standing Liberty Quarter, and Walking Liberty Half Dollar. All premiering in 1916, these three silver coins replaced the preceding Liberty Head (or “Barber”) coinage on the dime, quarter, and half dollar and debuted during the Renaissance of American Coinage – a period when United States denominations from one-cent coin to $20 double eagle underwent massive artistic overhauls. The Mercury Dime and Walking Liberty Half Dollar were designed by Adolph A. Weinman and the Standing Liberty Quarter was the brainchild of Hermon A. MacNeil.

While MacNeil’s Standing Liberty Quarter lasted only until 1930, Weinman’s two designs were in production well into the 1940s, with the Mercury Dime coming to an end in 1945 and the Walking Liberty Half Dollar continuing until 1947. Though the three vintage-1916 Liberty designs were eventually replaced with new motifs, Americans never really forgot the stunning depictions of Miss Liberty as portrayed on the Mercury Dime, Standing Liberty Quarter, and Walking Liberty Half Dollar. They were in production recently enough that even collectors who are only in their 50s, 60s, and 70s today can recall finding examples of these three types in circulation and were subsequently inspired to collect these coins due to these chance encounters.

Nostalgia for these classic coin designs has even led to their revival on United States coinage. When the United States Mint launched the nation’s American Eagle bullion coin program in 1986, Weinman’s Walking Liberty motif was pulled from a 39-year retirement and resurrected on the obverse of the one-ounce silver eagle – a coin on which the Walking Liberty design is still found. By 2013, plans were circulating for Weinman’s Winged Liberty Head motif from the Mercury Dime to get a starring role on a new one-ounce palladium coin, which finally came to realization when the palladium issue joined the American Eagle family of bullion coins in 2017.

As other classic United States coin designs have also made their returns as modern-day releases, vocal numismatists and officials at the United States Mint began pitching ideas for how the nation could further pay homage to the timeless designs of Weinman and MacNeil. One such effort materialized in 2015 with plans for a trio of 24-karat gold coins featuring faithful obverse and reverse reproductions of the Mercury Dime, Standing Liberty Quarter, and Walking Liberty Half Dollar.

The three .9999-fine gold coins were released in 2016 with weights and nominal denominations corresponding to the three original 90% silver coins designed by Weinman and MacNeil. These golden reproductions include the tenth-ounce gold Mercury Dime, quarter-ounce gold Standing Liberty Quarter, and half-ounce Walking Liberty Half Dollar. All three coins were struck by the West Point Mint and released by the United States Mint with a business-strike finish, which PCGS designates as a Special Strike with its exquisite matte-like bloom.

2016 Centennial Series, 2016-W 10C 100th Anniversary, PCGS SP70. Click image to enlarge.

The 2016 Centennial Series gold coins were popular offerings, with the United States Mint selling out of the tenth-ounce gold 2016-W Mercury Dime within minutes of its release on April 21, 2016. The relatively low price point of that coin, which was issued for $205 with strict household ordering limits, proved the most successful of the three pieces in the series. The larger – and much more expensive – quarter-ounce 2016-W Standing Liberty Quarter and half-ounce Walking Liberty Half Dollar sold quite well following their release dates of September 8 and November 17, respectively. But neither of these two larger gold coins, the quarter issued at $485 and the half dollar offered for $865, achieved sellout status as their smaller, more affordable Mercury Dime counterpart did.

The 2016-W Mercury Dime saw a total mintage of 124,885, with most examples that have been submitted to PCGS grading SP70. Meanwhile, the 2016-W Standing Liberty Quarter saw a total production of 91,752 pieces, it, too, mostly grading out at SP70. The vast majority of the 2016-W Walking Liberty Half Dollars, realizing a total mintage of 65,512, also are graded SP70. Prices for the three coins are largely dependent on the prevailing bullion winds and trade hands for nominal premiums above their spot values.

2016 Centennial Series, 2016-W 25C 100th Anniversary, PCGS SP70. Click image to enlarge.

Works Cited
  • Gilkes, Paul. “Top 10 of 2016: Centennial Gold coins Excite Hobby.” Coin World.
  • Golino, Louis. “The Coin Analyst – The Trio of 2016 Liberty Centennial Gold Coins Likely To Remain in Demand for Years.” CoinWeek. January 28, 2016.
  • Hernandez, Jaime. “Why the 2016-W Liberty Quarters Won’t Sell Out.” PCGS.
  • Modern Commemoratives Gold Commemoratives