Anyone who has handled United States coinage has seen a mint mark. The small capital letter on the obverse (heads side) of a coin tells collectors, customers, and institutions where that coin was minted. The responsibility for striking our Nation’s coins is divided among mints in Denver (“D”), Philadelphia (“P”), San Francisco (“S”), and West Point (“W”). With their clear visibility on a coin, collecting coins based on their mint marks is a exciting way to enjoy the world of coin collecting. Experienced numismatists can curate beautiful collections, spanning some of our most beloved programs, based on mint marks.
Mint marks first appeared on United States coins in 1838, thanks to a Congressional Act passed three years earlier. Before 1838, all coins were produced at the Philadelphia Mint, but when Mint branches opened in Charlotte (NC), Dahlonega (GA), and New Orleans (LA), also in 1838, it became necessary to distinguish coins. Those early mint marks were stamped on the reverse, or tails side of coins. It was not until 1965, after the passage of the Coinage Act of 1965, that the uppercase letter denoting a coin’s mint mark was moved to the obverse (heads) side where it is displayed today.