marks appear on a variety of U.S. coins
By Cindy Brake
numismatic trivia question. What is the common
link with the following coins – the Wartime
5-cent coins, Seated Liberty dime and dollar,
Coronet gold eagle and double eagle, Classic
Head half eagle, a commemorative coin and a
The first D Mint mark coins were struck at the
Dahlonega Branch Mint in northern Georgia on
April 21, 1838. The coins were 1838-D Classic
Head half eagles.
The New Orleans Branch Mint began operations May
7, 1838, by coining 1838-O Seated Lib-erty
dimes. General circulation for O Mint mark dimes
began in June after the issue of ceremonial
The D Mint mark was resurrected when production
of coinage at the U.S. Mint of Denver began on
March 12, 1906.
The first P Mint mark appeared on the Jefferson,
Wartime 5-cent coins struck at the Philadelphia
Mint from 1942 to 1945, to distinguish silver
alloy issues from regular copper-nickel coins.
Except cents, all that Mint's coins bear a P
Need another clue? Or was that too easy?
The correct answer is that a coin among each
type listed was the first United States coin to
bear the Mint mark of one of the nine U.S. Mints
or Branch Mints.
Mint marks are a letter or other symbol
indicating the Mint of origin. Mint marks serve
as a tracking mechanism that permits officials
to check by Mint origin a coin's weight,
fineness and general quality of manufacture.
Originally Mint marks were located on the
reverse of most U.S. coins until 1968. Of course
there are exceptions. The exceptions include
1838-O Capped Bust half dollars, the 1916-D and
1916-S Walking Liberty half dollars, and the
Lincoln cent. Mint marks were not used on any
U.S. coins dated 1965 to 1967 because of a coin
shortage. Mint marks then returned to U.S.
coinage in 1968, but on the obverse.
Mint marks appear in various locations on
commemorative coins, although recent
commemoratives have obverse Mint marks.
Mint marks on United States coins are one or two
letters representing the location of the Mint or
branch Mint where the coin was created. The
letters and the Mints they represent are: P,
Philadelphia; C, Charlotte; D, Dahlonega or
Denver; O, New Orleans; S, San Francisco; CC,
Carson City; W, West Point; and M, Manila.
Mint marks on U.S. coins first appeared in 1838,
the year more than one Mint began issuing coins.
Earlier U.S. coins were issued by the U.S. Mint
in Philadelphia without Mint marks.
The first coinage struck at the Philadelphia
Mint was the 1793 Flowing Hair, Chain cents.
However, the first P Mint mark coins were not
coined until 1942. A P Mint mark on the
Jefferson, Wartime 5-cent coins, struck from
1942 to 1945, distinguished silver alloy issues
from regular copper-nickel 5-cent coins. When
production of copper-nickel 5-cent coins resumed
in 1946, the P Mint mark was dropped.
Beginning in 1979, the P Mint mark appeared on a
regular basis. The first United States coin to
carry a P Mint mark as a regular design feature
was the Anthony dollar. The P Mint mark was
placed on all other denominations, except the
cent, beginning in 1980.
According to David W. Lange in History of the
United States Mint and Its Coinage, "This
omission was due to the fact that cents were
also being struck without mintmarks at the San
Francisco and West Point mints."
The first coins struck at the U.S. Mint at
Charlotte, N.C., were 1838-C Classic Head half
eagles on March 27, 1838. These first coins were
not paid out to depositors until May 2, 1838,
because of a "curious practice imposed on the
new Southern mints by U.S. Mint Director
[Robert] Patterson," according to Lange. "The
coins could not be paid out until duplicate
assays of each gold deposit had been performed
by the Philadelphia Mint."
The U.S. Mint at Dahlonega in northern Georgia
began with the coining of 1838-D Classic Head
According to Lange, "On Feb. 12, 1838,
Superintendent [Dr. Joseph J.] Singleton
announced in a letter, 'This is the day of
commencement of Branch Mint operations,'
referring to the mint's readiness to accept
bullion deposits for coining."
The first Dahlonega Mint coins, with their D
Mint mark, were first struck April 21, 1838. The
coins were 80 gold $5 half eagles.
New Orleans Mint
The New Orleans Branch Mint began operations May
7, 1838, by striking 1838-O Seated Liberty
According to Lange, the first 10 pieces were
placed in the cornerstone of the new American
Theatre, which was then under construction. The
next 20 coins were presented to officials of the
Mint and the city.
General circulation for O Mint mark dimes began
San Francisco Mint
The U.S. Mint at San Francisco was authorized on
July 3, 1852; it struck its first coins on April
The first coins were 1854-S Coronet $20 double
The D Mint mark was resurrected for the U.S.
Mint at Denver. The first issuance of the Denver
Mint was not a coin, but rather a bronze uniface
souvenir medal given to those attending the
opening ceremony in 1906.
Production of coinage began on March 12, 1906,
with gold $10 eagles.
Carson City Mint
The first denomination struck at the U.S. Mint
at Carson City, Nev., was the Seated Liberty
silver dollar. According to Lange, on Feb. 11,
1870, the 1870-CC Seated Liberty dollars were
paid to the first bullion depositor.
West Point Mint
The U.S. Mint's bullion depository at West
Point, N.Y., became an official Mint in 1988 and
struck coins for circulation without Mint marks.
Cents were the first coins issued.
The first W Mint mark appears on the 1984-W Los
Angeles Olympic Games eagle. The first silver
dollar to carry the W Mint mark is a
commemorative, the 1992-W White House
Bicentennial silver dollar.
The U.S. Mint at Manila, the Philippines, was
established in 1920 when the country was under
On the Manila Mint's opening day of July 15, the
first denomination coined was the bronze