A tail feather hash mark noted on the San Francisco “no mintmark” bullion coin housed in the 25th anniversary American Eagle set no longer seems unique to the set.
The hash mark is also turning up on “no mintmark” San Francisco bullion coins that were struck and released earlier this year to the investor market and also slabbed as San Francisco coins by third-party grading services.
And the hash mark is also showing up on “S” mintmarked San Francisco coins, which the Mint calls uncirculated, a designation that does not apply to bullion coins.
In the Dec. 27 issue I reported that messages on Internet forums suggested that there might be a way to identify the 2011 San Francisco minted silver Eagles struck without a mintmark that went into the 25th anniversary sets from ones that were struck at the same facility without a mintmark (along with others from West Point sans a mintmark).
A number of collectors noticed that both of the silver Eagles in the sets (one that bore no mintmark and the other an “S” mintmark had what was being called a horizontal “hash mark” at the lower extremity of the tail feathers. Some also indicated that these seemed as if they might have been struck on burnished planchets, as they appeared to have a more satiny finish as compared to their bullion counterparts being sold as bullion.
It was speculated that this hash mark was not present on the pieces struck in San Francisco without a mintmark and sold earlier in the year as bullion coins, making it indistinguishable from those struck at West Point for bullion sales.
Early on it was believed that the only way to tell that a bullion piece that was minted in San Francisco was to actually see them come out of the unopened boxes of bullion pieces that were marked as coming from that facility, or to purchase one that was certified by one of the third-party grading services as coming from one of those boxes delivered to them unopened.
Michael White of the Office of Public Affairs at the U.S. Mint denied any knowledge of the “no mintmark” coins in the 25th anniversary sets being struck on burnished planchets and suggested they just have appeared that way due to variations in in die-to-die hand finishing, or how many strikes are on the die. He did not comment on the “hash mark.”
Unfortunately for those who hoped this “hash mark” would be a way to definitively tell the difference between a San Francisco struck 2011 silver Eagle sans a mintmark and placed in a 25th anniversary set from one struck for bullion purposes does not seem to be panning out.
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Two Numismatic News readers who responded to my request for more information sent emails and I found that between them that the finish on the bullion pieces does indeed vary from coin to coin on the bullion counterparts (as White suggested) and that at least some of those that were sold as bullion also bear the hash mark.
Numismatic News reader, John S. Gillilan said: “I read your article in Numismatic News yesterday regarding a possible hash mark on the tip of the San Francisco produced bullion coin. Today I checked my 25th anniversary silver set to see if this applied to the bullion (no mintmark) and the uncirculated San Francisco “S” coins in the set. Both have this hash mark. Also I have a San Francisco (no “S”) bullion coin that was certified by NGC as coming from the San Francisco Mint in an unopened bullion box. It also has the hash mark. All the other coins that I have whether they are bullion, uncirculated or proofs do not have this hash mark. Also I notice that the three coins that I have from San Francisco appear to be burnished like the uncirculated coin. This is not true of the bullion coins that I have purchased earlier in this year.”
Michael Wells said: “I would like to give my findings on the possibility of identifying the bullion Eagles as having originated from the 25th anniversary sets. I had recently purchased an American Eagle on an online auction that was slabbed by PCGS as being “struck at San Francisco.” This coin, although struck months prior to the 25th set’s issuance, has the tail feather hash mark on it. Therefore, I do not see the hash as an identifying mark for the 25th anniversary set but only as a sound method of identifying a San Francisco Mint struck coin. I would also offer that both coins seem to have the same finish.”
As such, it does appear that if this pattern holds up, a San Francisco produced 2011 silver Eagle, whether it be from a 25th anniversary set or from a bullion box will be able to be differentiated from its West Point counterpart of which many more are were struck for bullion coin sales purposes without a mintmark and apparently these do not bear the hash mark.
It also appears from the two reports that we have so far that the bullion pieces do vary in finish and that this is not an indicator of where the coin originated.
I ask that readers continue to study coins in their original sets (not those purchased on the secondary market where coins could have been switched) and those with bullion issues to report to us on what they find.
Special thanks go to Ed Davidson, who supplied the images used here.
Ken Potter is the official attributer of world doubled dies for the Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America and for the National Collectors Association of Die Doubling. He also privately lists other collectible variety types on both U.S. and world coins in the Variety Coin Register. More information on either of the clubs or how to get a coin listed in the Variety Coin Register may be obtained by sending a long, self- addressed envelope with 61 cents postage to P.O. Box 760232, Lathrup Village, MI 48076, or by contacting him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. An educational image gallery may be viewed on his website at www.koinpro.com.