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What is a Mint Mark on a Coin?

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 large and small mints. Some are still in use today, while others have gone out. 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 mint 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 are typically sought after by collectors, who like to collect 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 helpful 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 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 indicate 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 ship the metal back to the main facilities.
  • Denver (D): Like San Francisco, Denver’s mint was established because of significant regional gold and silver discoveries.
  • West Point (W): West Point Mint is 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 most famous for its striking of the Morgan Silver Dollars – Carson City Morgan Silver Dollars are very popular collectibles.
  • New Orleans (O): The New Orleans Mint was used to produce the coinage of precious metals from southern states.
  • Charlotte (C): Charlotte only ran from 1838 to 1861, when the Confederacy seized it.
  • Dahlonega (D): Like Charlotte, Dahlonega only ran briefly 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 its gold coins due to its higher silver content.

Mint marks are a signifier of the mint where a specific coin was produced, and collectors love smaller mintages found by their marks. Now that you know the U.S. mint marks, you can discover exactly where all your coins were struck.

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