A mint mark is a letter, symbol or an inscription on a coin indicating the mint where the coin was produced. It should not be confused with a mintmaster mark which is the mark of the mintmaster.
Mint marks were first developed to locate a problem. If a coin was underweight, or overweight, the mint mark would immediately tell where the coin was minted, and the problem could be located and fixed. Another problem which could occur would be a dishonest mint official debasing the coin, or putting less precious metal in the coin than specified. The first mint marks, called "Magistrate Marks" were developed by the Greeks, and named the Magistrate in charge of producing that coin. Debasing a coin, or otherwise tampering with it, was a very serious crime, often punishable by death in many civilizations. For example, in 1649, the directors of the Spanish colonial American Mint at Potosi, in what is today Bolivia, were condemned to death for seriously debasing the coinage. The initials of the assayer as well as the mint mark were immediate identifiers when the coins were inspected.
In some cases the symbols found in the field of ancient Greek coins indicated mints, not magistrates. Mints in territories conquered by Alexander the Great struck coins with the types he used in Macedon but marked with a local symbol.For example, Rhodes struck coins with Alexander’s types marked with a rose, a local symbol previously used on its own coins.
A reform of Diocletian made mint marks a regular feature of ancient Roman coinage. These mint marks were placed at the bottom of the reverse of the coin and contained three parts. The first part indicates that this was a coin with either SM for Sacra Moneta, M for Moneta, or P for Pecurnia. The second part was an abbreviation of the name of the mint such as ROM for Rome or LON for London. The final part indicated the workshop within the mint.The reform of Anastasius, which is the traditional dividing point between the coinage of the Roman and the Later Roman (a.k.a. Byzantine) empires, replaced the mint marks on gold coins by the inscription CONOB, meaning the pure standard of Constantinople, which was used by a variety of mints. Mint marks continued on copper coinage until the second half of the seventh century, however.
Mint names began to appear on French coins under Pepin and became mandatory under Charlemagne.In 1389, Charles IV adopted a system called Secret Points. This scheme placed a dot under the first letter of the legend on coins of Crémieu, under the second letter for Romans, up to the twenty-second letter for Bourges. In the fifteenth century letters or symbols placed at the end of the legend indicating the mint were used in addition to Secret Points. In 1540, Francis I discontinued Secret Points in favor of a system of letters; A for Paris, B for Rouen, …, Z for Lyon; in the field. He also made it the rule for mint-masters to place their personal marks on coins, as they had done with increasing frequency since the coinage of Louis XI. This was one of the few royal practices continued by the Republic of France. The mint letters continued until 1898 (briefly revived in 1914 and from 1942–58) and the mint-masters marks, supplemented by the mark of the Chief Engraver, are still used.
Some Medieval English coins used mint names .When William III retired hammered coinage, branch mints which helped strike machine made coins to replace it put their initials below his bust. The Royal Mint established branches to coin sovereigns near the sources of gold. These issues show the initials of Sydney, Melbourne, Victoria, and Perth Australia as well as Canada, South Africa, and India. The privately owned Soho Mint obtained a contract to strike royal copper coins with steam presses and put its name on these coins and on coins it minted for other countries. When it closed, Ralph Heaton acquired its equipment, founded the Birmingham Mint, and put his H mint mark on coins of Canada, among others.
The Spanish Empire introduced mint marks to the New World when they authorized Mexico City to open a mint on 11 May 1535. The Spanish Empire established mints throughout its American territories, each with their own mint mark. After its revolution, Mexico continued to use its colonial Mo monogram mint mark shown on either side of the date in the Spanish Milled Dollar. The United States of America established mints in Charlotte, North Carolina and Dahlonega, Georgia in 1838 after the Georgia Gold Rush and put its first mint marks on the gold coins struck there.Like other countries, the United States has since placed mint marks not only on its own coins but also those of its territories, such as the Philippines, and other countries for which it has contracts to strike coins, such as Fiji.
In the 19th century, numismatists (coin collectors) did not generally collect coins according to mint mark; rather, they attempted to obtain date sets of coins. A turnaround began after 1893, when A. G. Heaton's "A Treatise on Coinage of the United States Branch Mints" was published. Heaton cited example after example of mint-marked coins that were much scarcer than Philadelphia products and that should bring high premiums. When the United States abandoned silver coinage in 1964, mint marks were removed from the new copper-nickel coins in the belief that it would reduce the removal of coins from circulation by collectors. The silver coins quickly disappeared from circulation, and it was feared that if collectors saved too many of the new coins, there would be a serious shortage of coinage. Mint marks were returned to United States coins in 1968.
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The current mint marks on United States coinage are P, D, S, and W for the 4 currently operating US Mints. The letter P is used for the Philadelphia Mint, D for the Denver Mint, S for the San Francisco Mint, and W for the West Point Mint. Over time there have been 9 official United States Mints. The first US Mint was in Philadelphia which began coin production with large cents and the half cents of pure copper in early 1793. Other US Mints, prior to the twentieth century, were considered "branch mints". United States mint marks were originally used to distinguish coins not made in Philadelphia. The 8 mint marks used to distinguish coins not minted in Philadelphia (in the chronological order of their first coinage) are: D for the Dahlonega Mint (production of coins started on February 12, 1838), C for the Charlotte Mint (March 27, 1838), O for the New Orleans Mint (May 8, 1838), S for the San Francisco Mint (April 3, 1854), CC for the Carson City Mint (February 11, 1870), D again (Dahlonega had closed in 1861 never to reopen) now for the Denver Mint (March 12, 1906), M for Manila Mint (July 15, 1920) (where an official US Mint began with the coinage of a one centavo coin on July 15, 1920) and lastly a W for the West Point Mint The West Point Mint began coin production on July 29, 1974 to ease the shortage of quarters and other minor coinage and bore no mint mark. Thus West Point coins could not be distinguished from those made at the Philadelphia Mint. The West Point mint mark, "W", was first used on the $10 gold coins commemorating the 1984 Olympic games in Los Angeles. Most Philadelphia Mint coins from earlier than 1980 were unmarked with the notable exceptions being wartime nickels (1942-1945), and Susan B. Anthony dollars (1979-1999). The P mint mark was first used on the Susan B. Anthony Dollars starting 1979. From 1980 until 2017, the Lincoln cent was the only coin that did not always have a mint mark, using a "D" when struck in Denver but lacking a "P" when ostensibly struck at the Philadelphia mint. This practice allowed the additional minting of coins at the San Francisco mint ("S") and West Point mint ("W") without the use of their respective mint marks to address circulating coinage needs without the concern of creating scarce varieties that would be plucked from circulation by collectors. In the single year of 2017 the Philadelphia "P" was added to the Lincoln cent to celebrate 225 years of Philadelphia Mint service.Generally 21st century coins with an "S" or "W" do not circulate, being mostly produced as bullion, commemorative, proof coinage or other "collector coinage" sold by the US Mint to either authorized bullion wholesalers or directly to collectors. There was also an exception, the 2019-W quarter made for circulation. Only 2 million were made for each design. The West Point Mint continues to make W quarters intended for circulation. This is called "The Great American Coin Hunt." The S mintmark were also used for circulated coins until 1980.
Although the US and several other countries use the initial letter of the city for its mint marks, this practice is not universal. For instance, Germany used A for Berlin, D for Munich, E for Muldenhutten, F for Stuttgart, G for Karlsruhe and J for Hamburg. When Spain adopted decimal coinage in 1848, it used stars with different numbers of points as mint marks. Madrid used six pointed stars, Barcelona used eight pointed stars, and so on. After the revolution of 1868, small dates were placed in these stars.The small dates indicated the year the coin was struck, as opposed to the large date on the coin which was the year it was authorized.
Many mints of the world commonly use a Privy mark, which is a symbol unique to each mint. The Royal Canadian Mint commonly uses a maple leaf privy mark. Segovia, Spain used an aqueduct, a local landmark, before it switched over to the star system in 1868. The private mint of the French Coinage Society Poissy Branch used a thunderbolt mint mark on coins of France, its colonies, Romania and other countries.
Many Islamic coins bear an inscription telling which mint produced the coin. This inscription is often the name of the city where the coin was minted spelled out in Arabic script.
Several euro coins have mint marks of their respective Mint. See Identifying marks on euro coins for more information.
Coins of the United States dollar were first minted in 1792. New coins have been produced annually and they make up a valuable aspect of the United States currency system. Today, circulating coins exist in denominations of 1¢, 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, and $1.00. Also minted are bullion and commemorative coins. All of these are produced by the United States Mint. The coins are then sold to Federal Reserve Banks which in turn are responsible for putting coins into circulation and withdrawing them as demanded by the country's economy.
In numismatics, the term milled coinage is used to describe coins which are produced by some form of machine, rather than by manually hammering coin blanks between two dies or casting coins from dies.
The United States Mint is a bureau of the Department of the Treasury responsible for producing coinage for the United States to conduct its trade and commerce, as well as controlling the movement of bullion. It does not produce paper money; that responsibility belongs to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The first United States Mint was created in Philadelphia in 1792, and soon joined by other centers, whose coins were identified by their own mint marks. There are currently four active coin-producing mints: Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, and West Point.
The Royal Canadian Mint is the mint of Canada and a Crown corporation, operating under the Royal Canadian Mint Act. The shares of the Mint are held in trust for the Crown in right of Canada.
The dollar coin is a United States coin with a face value of one United States dollar. Dollar coins have been minted in the United States in gold, silver, and base metal versions. Dollar coins were first minted in the United States in 1794.
The franc, also commonly distinguished as the French franc (FF), was a currency of France. Between 1360 and 1641, it was the name of coins worth 1 livre tournois and it remained in common parlance as a term for this amount of money. It was reintroduced in 1795. After two centuries of inflation, it was redenominated in 1960, with each new franc (NF) being worth 100 old francs. The NF designation was continued for a few years before the currency returned to being simply the franc. Many French residents, though, continued to quote prices of especially expensive items in terms of the old franc, up to and even after the introduction of the euro in 2002. The French franc was a commonly held international reserve currency of reference in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The solidus, nomisma, or bezant was a highly pure gold coin issued in the Late Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire. Constantine introduced the coin, and its weight of about 4.5 grams remained relatively constant for seven centuries. In the Byzantine Empire, the solidus or nomisma remained a highly pure gold coin until the 11th century, when several Byzantine emperors began to strike the coin with less and less gold. The nomisma was finally abolished by Alexius I in 1092, who replaced it with the hyperpyron, which also came to be known as a "bezant". The Byzantine solidus also inspired the originally slightly less pure dinar issued by the Muslim Caliphate. In Western Europe, the solidus was the main gold coin of commerce from late Roman times to Pepin the Short's currency reform, which introduced the silver-based pound/shilling/penny system.
The Coinage Act of 1792, passed by the United States Congress on April 2, 1792, created the United States dollar as the country's standard unit of money, established the United States Mint, and regulated the coinage of the United States. This act established the silver dollar as the unit of money in the United States, declared it to be lawful tender, and created a decimal system for U.S. currency.
The ducat coin was used as a trade coin in Europe from the later Middle Ages from the 13th to 19th centuries. Its most familiar version, the gold ducat or sequin containing around 3.5 grams of 98.6% fine gold, originated in Venice in 1284 and gained wide international acceptance over the centuries. Similarly named silver ducatons also existed. The gold ducat circulated along with the Florentine florin and preceded the modern British pound sterling and the United States dollar.
The Canadian five-cent coin, commonly called a nickel, is a coin worth five cents or one-twentieth of a Canadian dollar. It was patterned on the corresponding coin in the neighbouring United States. It became the smallest-valued coin in the currency upon the discontinuation of the penny in 2013. Due to inflation, the purchasing power of the nickel continues to drop and currently the coin represents less than 0.5% of the country's lowest minimum hourly wage.
The Seated Liberty dollar was a dollar coin struck by the United States Mint from 1840 to 1873 and designed by its chief engraver, Christian Gobrecht. It was the last silver coin of that denomination to be struck before passage of the Coinage Act of 1873, which temporarily ended production of the silver dollar for American commerce. The coin's obverse is based on that of the Gobrecht dollar, which had been minted experimentally from 1836 to 1839. However, the soaring eagle used on the reverse of the Gobrecht dollar was not used; instead, the United States Mint (Mint) used a heraldic eagle, based on a design by late Mint Chief Engraver John Reich first utilized on coins in 1807.
This glossary of numismatics is a list of definitions of terms and concepts relevant to numismatics and coin collecting, as well as sub-fields and related disciplines, with concise explanations for the beginner or professional.
The Flying Eagle cent is a one-cent piece struck by the Mint of the United States as a pattern coin in 1856 and for circulation in 1857 and 1858. The coin was designed by Mint Chief Engraver James B. Longacre, with the eagle in flight based on the work of Longacre's predecessor, Christian Gobrecht.
The three-dollar piece was a gold coin produced by the United States Bureau of the Mint from 1854 to 1889. Authorized by the Act of February 21, 1853, the coin was designed by Mint Chief Engraver James B. Longacre. The obverse bears a representation of Lady Liberty wearing a headdress of a Native American princess and the reverse a wreath of corn, wheat, cotton, and tobacco.
The half eagle is a United States coin that was produced for circulation from 1795 to 1929 and in commemorative and bullion coins since 1983. Composed almost entirely of gold, its face value of five dollars is half that of the eagle coin. Production of the half eagle was authorized by the Coinage Act of 1792, and it was the first gold coin minted by the United States.
The gold dollar or gold one-dollar piece is a gold coin that was struck as a regular issue by the United States Bureau of the Mint from 1849 to 1889. The coin had three types over its lifetime, all designed by Mint Chief Engraver James B. Longacre. The Type 1 issue has the smallest diameter of any United States coin minted to date.
The Coinage Act of 1965, Pub.L. 89–81, 79 Stat. 254, enacted July 23, 1965, eliminated silver from the circulating United States dime and quarter dollar coins. It also reduced the silver content of the half dollar from 90 percent to 40 percent; silver in the half dollar was subsequently eliminated by a 1970 law.
The Newfoundland 2-dollar coin was issued in intermittent years between 1865 and 1888. It was the only circulation gold coin issued by a British colony. Although few coins were issued, it was broadly used in Newfoundland and eastern Canada. The coin became scarce in 1894 because of hoarding following the collapse of Newfoundland's banks and monetary system.
The copper-nickel three-cent piece, often called a three-cent nickel piece or three-cent nickel, was designed by US Mint Chief Engraver James B. Longacre and struck by the United States Bureau of the Mint from 1865 to 1889. It was initially popular, but its place in commerce was supplanted by the five-cent piece, or nickel.
The three-cent silver, also known as the three-cent piece in silver or trime, was struck by the Mint of the United States for circulation from 1851 to 1872, and as a proof coin in 1873. Designed by the Mint's chief engraver, James B. Longacre, it circulated well while other silver coinage was being hoarded and melted, but once that problem was addressed, became less used. It was abolished by Congress with the Coinage Act of 1873.