What Are Mint Marks?

A mint mark is a symbol or letter that identifies the specific mint that produced a coin, and its crucial role established responsibility for coinage and standardizing production. This practice dates back to Rome and Greece, but the U.S. adopted mint marks in 1838. Most modern coins in the U.S. have mint marks with a “D” for the Denver Mint, “P” for Philadelphia, “S” for San Francisco, and “W” for West Point, New York. However, U.S. Mints have changed over the years, and mint marks can showcase the rarity and value of a coin.

Example of a United States penny with a mint mark

The History of Mint Marks

The purpose of stamping these marks on coins was to display the facility that manufactured the coinage in case an issue arose with the metallic composition. Mints were in regions that had a reliable supply of raw material. Each mint would send a sample of the coins to the U.S. Mint headquarters each year for observation by a board of inspectors. Then, the inspectors would take measurements of each coin in terms of diameter, thickness, and weight to determine whether they met the recommended composition of precious metal. Finally, the inspectors would test the coins chemically to evaluate if they contained the proper fineness of the precious metal, usually gold or silver. If the quality of the coin was subpar, the inspectors would launch an investigation into the mint responsible. However, since the coins circulating in the U.S. currently do not contain any precious metal, the primary purpose of mint marks is to maintain the marking tradition.

Location of Mint Marks on Coins

In the United States, most coins dated 1964 and before have them on the reverse. Coins dated between 1965 and 1967 do not possess any mint marks due to their prohibition by the Coinage Act of 1965; however, the practice resumed in 1968, with a permanent relocation of it to the front side of the coin. Because Philadelphia was the original U.S. Mint, many coins minted at that location do not have a mark. Most coins have these marks located at the bottom of the coin, near the date, or below the eagle or wreath.

The mint mark of a coin can have a substantial impact on its value. At Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers, our evaluation process involves a number of factors, including identifying the mark, or where the coin was produced. We regularly purchase rare or numismatic coins, as well as platinum, gold, silver, and palladium coins at competitive prices. Contact us today at 404-236-9744 to schedule a private meeting.

Tony Davis
Tony Davis