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The “Mercury” Dime

In 1916, Adolph Weinman’s designs of the “Winged” Liberty dime and Walking Liberty half won the design competition in their category for America’s new coinage. The other category in the competition was for the quarter, which went to Herman MacNeil and his beautifully designed Standing Liberty quarter. Weinman’s dime depicted Elsie Stevens as Ms. Liberty wearing a closely fitted cap with wings. Once introduced, the public immediately associated Hermes or Mercury with the new design and the Winged Liberty soon became known as the Mercury dime.

The reverse of the coin contained many symbolic details. America was about to enter into WW1 and Weiman’s design warned its enemies of America’s resolve. The main detail is the Roman fasces, which consists of an executioner’s axe bound by rods. By Roman law, the blade was meant to kill quickly and with mercy. The rods signified a slow and painful death, without mercy. The fasces seems to be held by greenery, possibly signifying a peaceful nature. Without doubt, the rods and axe are at the forefront of imagery saying, “enemy beware”!

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