philadelphia mint

What are Mint Marks and Why are they Important

mint mark

Mint Marks are the tiny letters referring to the locality where the minting of coins took place. The position of mint mark can be found typically on the back side of coins that were minted before the year 1965 and on the front after the year 1967.

Coins of every US mint branch are recognized by mint marks.

The “Director of the Mint”, through the “Act of March 3, 1835”, set rules to classify and distinguish the coins released from every US Mint branch. This core management set accurate standards and pattern of production as well as responsible coinage.

Mintmarks that appear on US coins include:

  • C: Charlotte (Gold only, 1838-1861)
  • CC: Carson City (1870-1893)
  • D: Dahlonega, Georgia (Gold only, 1838-1861)
  • D: Denver (1906 to date; easily distinguishable from Dahlonega because of the different timeframes in which the mints operated)
  • O: New Orleans (1838-1909)
  • P: Philadelphia (Silver “Nickels” 1942-45; Dollar coins 1979 to date; other coins except cents 1980 to date. Although the Philadelphia mint has been operating continuously since 1793, most Philadelphia coins do not have a mintmark)
  • S: San Francisco (1854 to date. Now mints collector coins only. The last circulating coin to bear an ‘S’ mintmark was the 1980-S SBA Dollar)
  • W: West Point (1983 to date; collector coins only)

 

mint marks

All dies for US coins are produced at the Philadelphia Mint and prior to shipping the coins to their mint branch, coins are marked first with the correct and designated mint markings. The precise size and positioning of the coins’ mint mark can slightly vary; this is influenced by how deep the punch was impressed and where.

The importance of mint marks:

Collectors can determine the value of a coin though mint mark, date and condition examination, making the coins condition the most significant factor and standard when determining its value.  Different mints produce a different quantity of coins and therefore some coins from mints having smaller quantities can be more valuable.

Coin Collecting for Fun

Have coins? Will collect!

Old coins that is. Try looking under that old dresser, or up the attic where grandma or grandpa’s things may be stashed away patiently waiting for you to discover them. Who knows, you might find a coin there, an old coin that – at today’s rate – may be worth a few dollars; probably three or four or five, even ten times what the coin was worth back then.

A penny a day, is worth okay
Fortunately or unfortunately, there was a shortage of copper during the year 1943 and all pennies made at that time were minted using steel. There were however, some Lincoln pennies that were incorrectly minted on bronze that turned out to be blanks. A few years – or decades later -these bronze pennies became a rarity and are valuable. The steel ones though, because of their commonality, are worth only between one to three dollars each.

Be aware and be wary as there are schemes where gullible coin collectors are sold coins that are copper plated in an attempt to make these pennies appear to be bronze. Also, keep your guard up anytime someone offers you a circa 1943 penny made out of a metallic white alloy.

Old coins are good coins
Silver DollarCoins, specifically the silver dollars made and circulated between the years 1878 and 1935, are worth between twelve dollars and twenty five dollars for the circulated coins. The coins that were not in circulation are worth considerably more.

Meantime, those quarters, dimes, or half dollar coins made and circulated prior to 1965, are usually made out of ninety percent silver and therefore worth as much as today’s silver (with an additional premium, albeit small, put on the coin’s face value).

Wrong pennies are right
There is a Lincoln penny issued in 1972 on which the date and the letters on it appear to have been doubled. This rare coin is currently worth about sixty dollars, assuming the pennies are in standard condition. The Philadelphia Mint during that time period accidentally misaligned the die used in minting the coins causing the portrait of Lincoln to look like it was doubled. Fortunately or unfortunately, eighty thousand of these were circulated before the error was discovered.

In summary, coin collecting is similar to collecting bits of history and trivia from the past. In addition to the face value its worth as a treasure – pennies, dimes and coins – often are worth more in the long run.