Collectors were surprised in mid-January by the release of 2017 Philadelphia cents with a “P” mintmark.
It is the first time in 225 years that a mintmark has appeared on Philadelphia-produced cents.
The Mint made no prior announcement that it was adding the mintmark on Philadelphia cents struck in 2017.
New cents were simply introduced through routine banking channels.
In fact, the Mint did not even have a photograph of the new cents before their initial release.
Since the Mint was founded in 1792 and the first cent was released in 1793, the denomination produced in Philadelphia has never had a mintmark.
That, of course, is the point of this year’s change. In 2017 the Mint is celebrating its 225th anniversary. The placement of a “P” mintmark on Philadelphia cents was suggested by Mint employees as one way to mark the occasion.
It is a one-year special event. In 2018, cents from Philadelphia will once again cease to have a mintmark.
Lack of a mintmark used to be a matter of routine.
Because the Philadelphia Mint was the only mint in the United States for many years, mintmarks on U.S. coins were not necessary to identify the facility that made them.
But when other minting facilities were established for gold in 1838, mintmarks became necessary.
However, for Philadelphia coins, the tradition of no mintmark carried on.
Even when cent production began at San Francisco in 1908 and in Denver in 1911, Philadelphia continued with its tradition of no mintmark.
An exception was made 1942-1945 when mintmarks on the nickel were enlarged and relocated to a position over Monticello’s dome. A “P” was added.
This was done to alert the public to the change in alloy to the 35-percent silver used during World War II.
In 1946, the”P” disappeared from the nickel. The standard 75-percent copper, 25-percent nickel alloy first introduced in 1866 resumed and continues in use to this day. The tiny “D” and “S” mintmarks to the right of Monticello resumed too. Mintmarks moved to the obverse in 1968.
The peacetime tradition of no mintmarks for Philadelphia began to break down in 1979 when the Susan B. Anthony dollar was introduced.
Mint Director Stella Hackel Sims said the Philadelphia Mint would achieve a higher public profile using a mintmark. All denominations but the cent saw a “P” placed on them in 1980 and subsequent years for Philadelphia coins.
Collectors had spoken up in defense of the tradition of no mintmark for Philadelphia, so the cent was the designated denomination to carry it forward.
For one year, the tradition is suspended.
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.
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