I’ve been buying silver and gold bullion coins for a couple of years now. Reading news about the latest coin designs, I saw that the United States Mint was coming up with a gold version of the Mercury dime to celebrate its 100th anniversary. It was first issued in 1916 with a design by Adolph Weinman featuring lady liberty in a winged cap (not actually Mercury). Lincoln had already replaced an indian on the penny in 1909, but all of the other coins featured liberty. Though it is very small, the mercury dime is a favorite design. I remember Jeb had a bunch of them when he was collecting coins, but it seemed like they were pretty beat up. However, a lot of people collected Mercury dimes and I was able to get a pretty nice one for $7.50 on eBay. I thought I would get a Mercury dime and then maybe get the gold one when it comes out next week. However, the mint is going to charge $205 for the new coin which has only 1/10th oz. of gold worth about $124. I don’t think I want to pay that big a premium, which is why I end up never buying the mint’s commemorative offerings and instead stick with bullion coins with much lower premiums, including a privately produced 1 oz. silver coin with the mercury design.
$7.50 seemed like a pretty good deal on a good example of a historic coin (I wasn’t worried about trying to find rare ones, and the 1943 I bought is pretty common; also if you are patient you can get similar coins for about $6.00; still maybe that’s expensive for a dime), so I wondered what else I could get. The United States silver bullion coin is called the Eagle and features a design originally used on another coin designed by Adolph Weinmann, the walking liberty half dollar. So I thought it would be kind of neat to have a walking liberty coin. I bought one the next day from the same dealer, who is selling tons of old coins in great condition for what seem like reasonable prices, so I wound up paying $18.50 for a walking liberty half.
I love these old coin designs. While Weinman’s are some of the best, there are others that were really good including the peace dollars from the 1920’s. Even the buffalo nickel and indian head pennies were kind of neat. Now all of our coins have been replaced by people. Thomas Jefferson was put on the nickel in 1938 for his 200th birthday and George Washington was put on the quarter for his 200th birthday in 1932. Even the mercury dime went out of production in 1945, replaced by Franklin Roosevelt, who had just died. The last coin to fall to a real person (not a president, this time) was the walking liberty half dollar, which was replaced with a not so great image of Benjamin Franklin in 1948. The back of that coin has the Liberty Bell, but by law the back of the half dollar had to have an eagle, so they added a tiny eagle to the right of the bell, which looks terrible. Still, even Franklin gave way to John F. Kennedy in 1964, so I bought a proof version of a Franklin half for $11. Eisenhower was given the dollar coin in 1971. I think the Republicans felt like they were getting left out by democrats Roosevelt and Kennedy. So while the mint had stopped making the peace dollar after 1935, they brought it back for Eisenhower. That giant coin was replaced by the more portable, but equally unpopular Susan B. Anthony (maybe not a member of either party since she was never allowed to vote) dollar in 1979.
Researching these coins, I found out that the Curiosity rover that landed on Mars in 2012 has a 1909 Lincoln penny attached to it. Curiosity was supposed to launch in 2009, the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln penny (and 200th birthday of Lincoln), so one of the engineers donated a 1909 penny to use on a small panel used to calibrate the rover’s cameras. In the end the rover launched in 2011, but the penny still made it.