Mintmark: A letter or other mark on a coin denoting the mint that manufactured the coin.
US coins are avidly collected by date and mintmark, and the presence or absence of a mintmark can mean huge differences in the value of a coin. The 1927 Double Eagle is a relatively humble coin - or at least as humble as a twenty dollar gold piece can be. The 1927-S is quite a rare coin, with even the worst specimen likely to bring $5,000 and up at auction. However, the 1927-D is a tremendous rarity, bringing six figure prices whenever it is offered. What's the difference between these three coins? The mintmark.
Any collector needs to be able to spot the mintmark both on a coin and within the coin's description. The latter is easy - the term "1927-D" means that the coin is dated 1927 and carries a 'D' mintmark. If the date of a US coin is written without a mintmark, it means that the coin has no mintmark and was (usually) minted in Philadelphia. Coins without mintmarks made in Philadelphia are sometimes referred to as, for example, 1927-P, even though there may be no mintmark on the coin. Most exceptions to the rule that US coins without mintmarks are from Philadelphia have occurred in the last 40 years.
Mintmarks that appear on US coins include:
If you consider US coins to include issues struck for the Philippines both under Sovereignty of the US and as a Commonwealth, you would have to add the 'M' mintmark for the Manila mint to the above list.
For the most part, mintmarks on circulating coins appear on the reverse of the coin if the coin was dated 1964 or earlier. No mintmarks appeared on any US coins dated 1965-67, but in 1968, the four circulating coins that had not already had an obverse mintmark had the mintmark moved to the obverse. A good rule of thumb when searching for a mintmark is to look near the date or at the bottom of the reverse, often below the wreath or the eagle.
Specific locations of mintmarks on US circulating coins are as follows:
Of course, mintmarks also appear on US commemorative and bullion coins, but the coins, let alone the mintmark locations, are far too varied to go into here.
Although collectors of US coins are used to mintmarks being letters, mintmarks can be virtually anything that would identify the place of the coin's manufacture. The first coins were issued by city-states and did not necessarily need mintmarks, as anything that would identify the issuer would suffice. However, Roman Republican coins often bore the name of the moneyer (this practice continues to the present day in some places), and the Roman Empire, in an attempt at uniformity, started to use mintmarks in the middle of the third century.
These marks took the form of a combination of letters - the first part to indicate that the coin was in fact money (later to indicate the metallic content - silver or gold), the second to indicate where the coin was struck, and the third to indicate which workshop within the mint struck the coin. Unfortunately, the order in which these three parts appeared could vary, and sometimes not all of the three parts would appear, which results in the fact that Roman coins can have an immense number of different mintmarks. The point of the mintmark was keep track of the people manufacturing the money, in that coins of improper weight and fineness could be traced back to the responsible party, who would likely regret having been traced for the rest of their often very short lives.
Medieval mints used a dizzying assortment of marks, often small pictures or symbols. A glance at Coincraft's Standard Catalogue of English and UK Coins 1066 to Date, for example, shows that eleven pages are dedicated to enumerating and picturing the mintmarks that appear on British coinage between 1334 and 1662. Fortunately, the bulk of British coinage made during this time consisted of pennies, most of which also bore the name of either the minting city or the moneyer.
Mintmarks on more modern world coins may be letters, or monograms, with the familiar Mexican Mo mintmark, signifying Mexico City, being an example of the latter. Even today mintmarks may still be symbols, such as the heart that has long been the mintmark of the Copenhagen mint. Today, with the advent of industrialized mints that are able to handle huge coinage loads and the elimination of circulating precious metal coinage, there are fewer mints, often only one per country. This renders mintmarks less necessary, and many mints do not use them.
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