A coin’s Mint Mark is an inscription on a coin that tells you where it was made. The Mint Mark may be located on the obverse, or front, of the coin or the reverse. In most cases Mint Marks on coins are a single letter but some coins from around use the full spelling of the location where the coin was minted.
Mint Marks came into use centuries ago so that problems with coins could be traced to their origin and corrected. In the past dishonest mint officials had been known to use less precious metals in the coins, keeping the extra for themselves and thereby cheating the people.
Serious offenses like that often called for severe penalties. Those problems are far less likely to happen with today’s technology and the full specifications of coins being published so people know exactly how much a coin weighs and its physical dimensions.
U.S. Mints and Mint Marks
In the U.S. the following are current or former mints and their particular Mark:
- Philadelphia – P Mint Mark. Minting coins from 1793 till today.
- Denver – D Mint Mark. Produced coins from 1906 to today.
- San Francisco – S Mint Mark. Produced coins from 1854-1955 and then from 1968 to today.
- West Point – W Mint Mark. Produces collector proof coins from 1976 to today.
- Carson City – CC Mint Mark. Produced coins from 1870-1893.
- New Orleans – O Mint Mark. Produced coins from 1838-1861 then again from 1879-1909.
- Charlotte – C Mint Mark. In operation from 1838-1861.
- Dahlonega – D Mint Mark. Produced coins from 1838-1861.
Notice that both Denver and Dahlonega used the “D” Mint Mark but keep in mind gold coins have never been minted in Denver and only gold coins were ever minted at the old Dahlonega Mint. As at Dahlonega only gold coins were ever minted at the Charlotte Mint.
With only 2 exceptions coins minted before 1980 at the Philadelphia Mint carried no Mint Mark. The 2 exceptions being Nickels produced during WWII and the Susan B. Anthony Dollar first minted in 1979.
With some exceptions most Mint Marks for U.S. coins were located on the reverse side of the coin until 1968 when the mark was moved to the obverse, or front, of the coins. The current Presidential Dollars Mint Mark is actually located on the edge of the coin next to the date.
The other exception that I always found interesting is the Mint Mark on the 1916 and some 1917 Walking Liberty Half Dollar were located on the obverse, or front, side of the coin beneath the word “TRUST”. This was changed later in 1917 to the reverse side of the coin just beneath the branch on the left side.
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Knowing where a coin was minted helps coin collectors determine a coin’s value. Having the date and Mint Mark will lead you to how many of the coins were actually minted. And knowing how many were minted will, in most but not all cases, help lead to the value of the coin when added to its condition.