Learn About Mint Marks, Their Origin, and What They Mean
Philadelphia. West Point. Dahlonega. Carson City. What do these cities all have in common?
They’ve all been locations of United States mints.
Over the years, the United States has established many mints, both large and small. Some are still in use today, while others have gone out of use. But many coins have carried mint marks from these mints. So just what is a mint mark? And what does it mean?
The Origin and Use of Mint Marks
Mint marks have been around since the high-water mark of ancient Greek civilization, but they have only been used since 1838 for U.S. coins.
Philadelphia’s coins did not receive a mint mark until 1942 when the mark was added to the Silver “war nickel” variation of the five-cent piece. It was removed in 1945, then re-added in 1979 to all circulating coins but the cent.
Mint marks have use for collectors, who prize coins from particular mints. Coin collecting was blamed for coin shortages in the 1960s, and from 1965 to 1967, mint marks were not used on U.S. circulating coins to discourage collecting. There are also a few other segments of time where certain mint marks were not used. Mint marks are also useful for keeping track of where errors or problems began.
Mint marks on modern coins usually take the form of a small letter struck on the coin’s obverse or reverse as part of the design. The letter used indicates the mint where the coin was struck.
Sovereign nations that strike their own coins often have multiple mint marks, particularly for older nations. The territories of the former British Empire had their own marks including “I” for Bombay, “M” for Melbourne, “SA” for Pretoria, “C” for Ottowa and “P” for Perth. This last mint mark has also been used for modern coins from The Perth Mint. The Royal Canadian Mint also has several mint marks, though many of theirs indicates a particular run of a coin rather than the mint where it was struck. One notable exception is “W” for Winnipeg.
U.S. Mint Marks
The U.S. has had many different mints over the years, and though many have closed, collectors still hunt for their mint marks. Here are the mint marks the U.S. has used over the years:
- Philadelphia (P): The oldest mint and the main facility. Some coins have the P mint mark, while others have no mint mark at all.
- San Francisco (S): San Francisco’s mint was created in the wake of the California Gold rush, as it was simpler to mint coins there than it was to ship the metal back to the main facilities.
- Denver (D): Like San Francisco, Denver’s mint was established because of major Gold and Silver discoveries in the region.
- West Point (W): The most recently established mint. West Point struck coins from 1974 on, but the first mint marks appeared in 1984.
- Carson City (CC): The Carson City mint is perhaps most famous for its striking of the Morgan Silver dollars, and Carson City Morgans are very popular collectibles.
- New Orleans (O): New Orleans was used for coinage of Precious Metals from southern states.
- Charlotte (C): Charlotte only ran from 1838 to 1861, when it was seized by the Confederacy.
- Dahlonega (D): Like Charlotte, Dahlonega only ran for a short time and was closed after the Confederacy seized it during the Civil War. The Dahlonega mint is notable for its “green Gold” coloration in many of the Gold coins it produced due to its higher Silver content.
Mint marks are a signifier of the mint where a coin was produced, and collectors love smaller mintages that can be found by their marks. Now that you know the U.S. mint marks, you can find out exactly where all your coins were struck.
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