No “S” Mint Mark Coins Aren’t Inherently Valuable – Here’s Why.
Coin collectors and investors are always on the hunt for rare error coins that may be quite valuable. Articles abound on error coins with estimated values of hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars. These articles motivate “cherry pickers” to thoroughly inspect all the coins in their collection to see if they have any of these prized specimens. One common phone call we’ve received over the years is someone who has found a no “S” mint mark coin that they’ve read online could be worth thousands of dollars.
Some of the online resources are thorough and describe in what instances you may have one of these valuable coins, while others simply gloss over the subject and encourage you to just look through your change to see if you’re able to uncover a coin without a mint mark. Due to the inconsistent information online, we thought that it would be helpful if we addressed this topic so that our readers better understand which of these coins may potentially be valuable.
To begin with, it’s important that we address the topic of mint marks. A mint mark is simply a letter or combination of
letters imprinted on a coin that provides the original mint location of the coin. Historically, we’ve had mints in New Orleans “O,” Carson City “CC,” Dahlonega “D,” and Charlotte “C,”, but there are only four U.S. Mints in operation today, including Philadelphia “P,” Denver “D,” San Francisco “S,” and West Point “W.” For those of you who are interested, we’ve written a prior article on the most valuable coins from these now defunct mints.
A “D” mint mark can be confusing for some folks, as it may not be apparent which mint produced the coin, but it’s fairly easy to identify by the date of the coin. This is because the Dahlonega Mint was only in production from 1838 – 1861, while the Denver Mint didn’t begin producing coins until 1906.
While this may not appear to be applicable to our original topic, it’s important to have a basic knowledge of mint marks and where coins were produced. It’s also important to note that the Philadelphia Mint was the first official mint of the United States and began producing coins in 1792. The Philadelphia Mint originally didn’t include a mint mark on their coins. This is simply because there were no other mints in existence at the time, so there was no need to differentiate between the various mints.
In the case of no “S” mint marks, these coins are commonly confused with Philadelphia-issued coins. As mentioned above, the Philadelphia Mint originally issued coins without a mint mark. The
first coins to include a “P” mint mark were 1942 – 1945 silver war nickels, with a “P” above the Monticello on the reverse side of the coin. There was a 34-year gap before the “P” mint mark made an appearance again, which was used in the production of Susan B. Anthony dollars in 1979. This means that there are plenty of coins without a mint mark that are Philadelphia issued as opposed to San Francisco-issued.
With respect to no “S” mint marks, these are coins that were produced as part of a proof set from the San Francisco Mint. The San Francisco Mint has been producing proof sets since 1968, which are encapsulated in hard acrylic holders. All coins issued by the San Francisco Mint as part of these proof sets should contain an “S” mint mark. Any that don’t are considered error coins and are incredibly valuable. Most notably is the 1975-s “no mint mark” Roosevelt dime of which only two are known to exist. The auction record for this coin is $456,000, which was sold by Heritage Auctions in September of 2019.
As you’re going through your pocket change, you may discover a 1975 Roosevelt dime without a mint mark. Does this mean that you have found one of these rare coins? Unfortunately, not. It simply means that you’ve come across a standard strike coin (not a proof coin) issued by the Philadelphia Mint. Considering over 585 million of these coins have been produced, they’re far from rare. Remember – the important thing to remember about no “S” mint mark coins is that they’re proof coins part of a set that is encapsulated in a sealed hard acrylic holder. If you have come across one of these coins, then you truly have a gem on your hands. If not, then you merely have a standard dime worth 10 cents.
We hope that this article helps to clear up some misconceptions regarding no “S” mint mark coins and their value.
Remember, in 99.9% of cases, a no mint mark coin simply means that it was issued at the Philadelphia Mint. Rather than going through your pocket change looking for this elusive coin, break out your proof sets and inspect all the coins with a loop. Who knows – you may be one of the lucky few to have an incredibly valuable coin in your possession.