Numismatic News reader Curtis Jordan of Michigan submitted an interesting coin in the form of a 1989-D Lincoln cent with a very low mintmark.
The Denver mintmark on his cent is positioned much further south than what was considered the normal area of placement during that era.
I use the term “normal area” because up until 1990 mintmark positions varied from die to die.
Shown here are a few of the positional variations of mintmarks. Only one has collector value. Presently, the others are curiosities.
The first is Jordan’s 1989-D cent with low mintmark. Our 1916-D Bison (Buffalo) nickel displays what some Buffalo nickel aficionados are starting to call an “Embedded D” into the “C” of CENTS. It has some interest and may catch on. Coin comes from Joe Beaupied. Next is a 1941-S Large S cent with the mintmark positioned tilted widely counterclockwise. Finally we look at a 1968-S proof Kennedy half dollar that boasts an “S” positioned 180 degrees out of proper position (inverted).
Of all these coins, only the 1968-S Kennedy half has attracted interest with it now listed in the Cherrypickers’ Guide To Rare Die Varieties by Bill Fivaz and J.T. Stanton. This coin has proven to be in high demand among Kennedy collectors and to be rare. It was submitted by Joe Crowder in 1997.
Starting in 1990, mintmarks stopped moving. They were placed into the master tools, i.e., punched into the master dies and from there transferred to the working hubs to the working dies or were engraved into the epoxy models and transferred down through the same sequence. This is bit of an oversimplification because the sequence of dates arriving at the epoxy was different for proof coins versus circulation coinage.
Up until that time all dies were made in Philadelphia without a mintmark where they were then punched into the individual working dies via hand punch. Placement of mintmarks prior to the 1990s could vary widely though there was a general target area in which engravers strived to stay within. Nonetheless, the variations in placement often strayed outside of the targeted areas and were still deemed acceptable for use.
This policy resulted in mintmarks that sometimes overlapped a bit into a date or other areas of design, or were positioned outside of a target area in any compass position, north, south, west, east or anywhere in-between. Other possibilities were mintmarks tilted way out of normal orientation. In some cases they were inverted 180 degrees from normal.
Other variations not necessarily relevant to this discussion that may or may not have resulted in wide positional variations were as Repunched Mintmarks, Over Mintmarks and variations in the style of mintmarks used within the same year/denomination.
Of all the positional variations the only ones that have really caught on with collectors are Inverted Mintmarks. The logic is that positional variations were normal variations. The same holds true for most date position variations from the 19th and previous centuries with some obvious exceptions such as on Early American coppers where the position of a date can be important in the identification of a very collectible “die marriage.”
Nonetheless, collecting habits often change and I can see where extremes in positional variation could become more collectible in the future.
Ken Potter is co-author of “Strike It Rich With Pocket Change” and has written many feature articles for “Numismatic News” and for “World Coin News.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. An educational image gallery may be viewed on his website at www.koinpro.com.