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San Francisco, the common mint?

Collectors of my generation still think of San Francisco coins as being the scarce ones.

This idea became ingrained in our minds as we hunted and hunted for coins in circulation, often to be slowed down or stumped by a San Francisco issue.

Even finding something as common as the 1955-S Lincoln cent took quite a bit of effort.

Sure, it was scarce by modern Lincoln cent standards, but certainly not in absolute terms.

This early training is probably why buyers of 100-coin bags of America the Beautiful quarters from the U.S. Mint still show a strong preference for the S-mint product.

As I was updating the Mint Statistics page, I could see that buyers were taking twice as many S-mint bags as either Philadelphia or Denver Mint ones.

For the Smokey Mountains National Forest quarter, the bag totals are 2,878 Philadelphia, 2,790 Denver and 5,977 for San Francisco.

For Shenandoah National Park, the Philadelphia figure is 2,596. Denver is 2,542 and San Francisco is 5,863.

Arches National Park numbers show 2,394 for Philadelphia, 2,339 for Denver and 4,653 for San Francisco.

Great Sand Dunes is 2,379 for Philadelphia, 2,288 for Denver and 4,572 for San Francisco.

The recently released Everglades quarters show Philadelphia at 1,157, Denver at 1,278 and San Francisco at 3,965.

This buying pattern is understandable, but it guarantees that future generations of collectors will consider the “S” mint to be the common one.

That probably should not surprise us as we have gotten used to relatively common clad proofs sets with the “S” mintmark.

But what we know in our heads, and what was ingrained in our psyches in our youth are probably two different things – just as present ATB quarter buying patterns suggest.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."