The U.S. Mint has released a new series of commemoratives to celebrate the centennial of three classic American coins: The Walking Liberty Half Dollar, the Standing Liberty Quarter, and the Mercury Dime. Each one of these coins are being restruck in .9999 fine gold, using their original 2016 design. These three coins are major releases of 2016 - make sure you will have all the information you will need to collect!
During the 2015 American Numismatic Association’s World Fair of Money in August 2015, a stunning new set of coins was announced for 2016. Rhett Jeppson, Deputy Director of the U.S. Mint, announced at a press forum that he was seeking approval for a trio of commemorative gold coins. These coins were proposed to honoring the 100th anniversary of three classic liberty-themed coins: the Walking Liberty Half Dollar, the Standing Liberty Quarter, and the Mercury Dime.
Members of the design review committee (CCAC) and numerous collectors expressed interest in seeing these coins struck in silver rather than gold to make them more accessible to collectors with limited budgets, but the U.S. Mint moved forward with plans to strike them in 24-karat (.9999) fine gold. The Mint has broad authority to issue collectible gold coins under existing statutory authority, whereas silver coins would require an act of Congress. This would have been a difficult task, especially during an election year.
Since the original 1916 coins had different weights than those planned for the 2016 coins due to different metal composition, the U.S. Mint decided to keep the diameters of these commemoratives close to the original coins. Because of this adjustment, thickness may not match the original coins. The coins will not have Mint marks, but they will have inscriptions for their weight, fineness, and gold purity.
April 21st was likely selected as the dime’s release date because it falls during the American Numismatic Association’s National Coin Week (April 17 to 23). This year's Coin Week was focused on the theme of liberty as represented on coins from ancient to modern times. A fitting time to begin a series honoring the centennial of three classic U.S. coins!
Despite being the smallest in the 3-coin Gold Centennial series, it was a massive success. Its mintage of 125,000 coins sold out within 40 minutes of its release. Priced at $205 and not including any shipping costs, over 25 million dollars in orders were placed for these coins. On the secondary market, prices for coins graded a perfect 70 with Early Releases designations have sold for over $500, although now the price has settled down quite a bit to the upper $300’s.
The 2016-W Mercury Dime Centennial is composed of 1/10 oz. of .9999 fine gold with a design matching the original 1916 issue. The diameter was, as mentioned, struck to be similar to the original Dime at 16.5mm. This coin is a grand commemorative of the 1916 Mercury Dime. Boasting extreme detail with an even, satin finish, it really is no wonder the coin is so popular!
ModernCoinMart currently offers this coin at an excellent price, with options including coins graded by the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), or by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC). These NGC graded coins are available with either the First or Early Releases designations, along with a number of different labels you can choose between.
The Standing Liberty Quarter Centennial is the next release from the U.S. Mint in this Gold Centennial series. This coin has been struck out of 1/4 oz. of .9999 fine gold with a diameter of 22mm and a thickness of 1.63mm. The design will match what Hermon Atkins MacNeil created for the first issue of the Standing Liberty Quarter in 1916, before any revisions were made. If you consider the popularity of this coin, particularly with the design in its original state, there is no telling what sales will be on this latest release in the gold centennial series.
Like the dime, this coin will be struck with a specimen finish. This provides a matte appearance to the surface of the coin. This may appear as a much finer version of the business strike used on the original 1916 quarters. What better way to celebrate such a classic U.S. coin design, than with this unique U.S. commemorative?
The U.S. Mint has recently announced that this coin would be issued on September 8th. They also announced that, unlike the previous issue in the series that had a mintage of 125,000, only 100,000 2016-W 1/4 oz. Gold Standing Liberty Quarters will be issued, with a limit of only 1 coin per household. Considering the speed at which the Gold Mercury Dime sold out, it will be interesting to see what happens with this lower mintage, yet strict household order limit.
The Walking Liberty Half Dollar Centennial is the final coin in the series. Designed by the esteemed Adolph Weinman, this coin has become extremely popular from the first day it was struck back in 1916. Even now, the design remains as popular as ever with the yearly release from the U.S. Mint of the American Silver Eagle, a coin bearing the Walking Liberty design. The 2016 commemorative will be struck out of 1/2 oz. of .9999 fine gold, making it the largest coin in the series.
This final issue in the series is marked "TBD" in the U.S. Mint's product schedule. ModernCoinMart offers email notification for when this coin is available for purchase, however, so you can sign-up now to keep informed!
To understand why the three 1916 coins play such a significant role in American numismatics, why these three coins remain so widely collected, and why collectors are so excited about the gold centennial commemoratives being issued this year, it is useful to review the historical background to the original silver coins.
Just as all Americans treasure the pursuit of liberty, collectors of American coins have always been strongly attracted to the theme of liberty. It is represented on U.S. coins in the allegorical form of Lady Liberty, the personification of our cherished ideals and, in many ways, the founding concept of our country.
The idea behind the creation of these three coins came from the widespread dissatisfaction with the designs of U.S. Mint Chief Engraver Charles Barber. In 1914, members of the influential New York Numismatic Club encouraged the U.S. Mint to produce new, better designs to replace three Barber coins - the Dime, Quarter, and Half Dollar - which was met with strong interest by the U.S. Mint’s leadership at that time.
After a design competition and meetings by the Commission of Fine Arts, the designs of acclaimed sculptor Adolph Weinman were selected for both the Dime and the Half Dollar. These became known as the Winged Liberty Head, or Mercury, Dime and the Walking Liberty Half Dollar. Herman MacNeil's design was selected for the Quarter, which became known as the Standing Liberty Quarter.
Each of the three coins contains important symbolism in their design. The Weinman Dime, which was immediately recognized as a major achievement in numismatic art, uses the head of a female Liberty wearing a winged cap. The artist explained that he chose the head because a full figure would not fit on a coin of this size and that “the wings crowning her cap are intended to symbolize liberty of thought.” The reverse has always been surrounded by a degree of controversy because it uses fasces, which is also featured in early Fascist imagery, but Weinman explained that he selected the motif “of the fasces and olive branch to symbolize the strength which lies in unity, while the battleax stands for preparedness to defend the Union.”
Weinman’s Liberty Half Dollar is one of the best-known classic American coin besides the Morgan Dollar, a July 1916 article in The Numismatist magazine of the ANA noted: “The goddess [Lady Liberty] is striding toward the dawn of a new day, carrying laurel and oak branches, symbolic of civic and military glory. The reverse shows an eagle perched high up on a mountain crag, wings unfolded. The pine growing out of the rock symbolizes America.”
The Standing Liberty Quarter of Herman MacNeil “is intended to typify the awakening of the country to its own protection. Liberty, a full figure, is shown stepping toward the country’s gateway, bearing upraised a shield from which the covering is being drawn. The right hand bears an olive branch of peace.” The reverse shows an eagle in full flight with its wings extended
The 2016 tributes to these three beautiful and magnificent Liberty-themed coins will have broad appeal across the numismatic spectrum, including classic and modern coin collectors, and they are also likely to contribute to even greater interest in the original 1916 silver coins. They are clearly aimed at the true collector, rather than those who speculate on modern coinage.
Like the 2009 Ultra High Relief gold coin, which had a rather high mintage of 115,000 coins but has maintained its value and popularity over time, this Gold Centennial Coin Series is likely to remain in high demand long after the coins are no longer available from the Mint. Collectors often focus obsessively on mintages, but the fact is that certain coins, usually those with truly outstanding designs that everyone loves, are always in demand no matter how many coins were issued.
Make sure to sign-up to receive email notification when the next release in the series, the Walking Liberty Half Dollar, comes available.
||Louis is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern U.S. and world coins and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst.” He is also a contributor to several magazines, including Coin World, where he writes a bimonthly feature;The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins; and American Hard Assets. He began writing about coins in 2009. He is a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum hosted by ModernCoinMart and has written articles for MCM since 2014. He has collected classic and modern U.S. and world coins since he was about 10 and first joined the ANA in the 1970’s. He was previously a congressional relations specialist and policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress and a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international politics and national security for a wide variety of publications. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.|