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First Mint marks appear on a variety of U.S. coins
By Cindy Brake

Here's a 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 centavo?

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 coins.

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 since 1979.

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.

Philadelphia Mint

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."

Charlotte Mint

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."

Dahlonega Mint

The U.S. Mint at Dahlonega in northern Georgia began with the coining of 1838-D Classic Head half eagles.

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 dimes.

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 in June

San Francisco Mint

The U.S. Mint at San Francisco was authorized on July 3, 1852; it struck its first coins on April 3, 1854.

The first coins were 1854-S Coronet $20 double eagles.

Denver Mint

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.

Manila Mint

The U.S. Mint at Manila, the Philippines, was established in 1920 when the country was under U.S. sovereignty.

On the Manila Mint's opening day of July 15, the first denomination coined was the bronze 1-centavo piece.

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