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'S' mintmark finds its place

Even though they aren’t made of silver, collectors have made room in their sets for the San Francisco mintmarked America the Beautiful uncirculated clad quarters struck in 2012.

Sold by the 100-coin bag or the 40-coin roll, the Mint has sold more than 1 million pieces of each of the five designs.

Naturally, the first issue, the El Yunque National Forest design that arrived in June, has seen the highest level of purchases.

Buyers have taken 1,680,140 coins so far. The El Yunque design has a healthy lead on the second most popular design, the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, which so far has sales of 1,309,820 coins.

Chaco also happens to be the second “S” mintmarked uncirculated clad quarter released in 2012, so the novelty factor might be expected to have influenced sales. If that is true, it wasn’t much influence, because the fourth issue, the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is nipping at its heels with a total of 1,291,280.

The third design, the Acadia National Park quarter, has a sales total of 1,215,040.

The fifth design, which made its official debut in November, stands at 1,081,020.

All of these sales totals are respectable. Future collectors will not be able to find these in circulation unless today’s collectors spend a few, which is perhaps the only disappointing element to the return of the “S” mintmark on a circulation-strike quarter.

The idea of searching for coins in circulation is still a powerful one.

We Baby Boomers who were active when silver coins disappeared from circulation thought that outcome would be the end of this method of collecting.

It wasn’t.

I think collectors of 45 years ago would be amazed at how tenacious collectors are about circulation finds – even if the chances of finding a 2012-S clad quarter are virtually nil.

That’s a tribute to the collecting spirit that drives us all forward and makes us wonder what 2013 will have in store.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."