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Wild about the "S"

I had an email from a Numismatic News reader telling me that he had found an “S” mint Denali quarter of 2012 in circulation.

The writer was not explicit, but I assume this not the proof, that it is indeed a circulation strike.

I am surprised I am not getting more of these notifications as the Mint continues to sell bag and roll quantities of circulation strike “S” mint quarters to collectors.

After three years, some of these "S" quarters surely have found their way into circulation when a collector who bought them needed money, or simply decided that some of the coins in the roll or bag did not have a quality worth keeping.

This email is proof of the concept that some of these circulation-strike “S” mint quarters will find their way into change.

However, the process is either a very slow one, or there are not many collectors who are even bothering to look at the mintmarks on the quarters they are receiving in daily life.

It does take a while to change behavior.

Even with three years of possible slips into change, that doesn’t add up to many coins.

Someday, though, the thrill of finding an “S” quarter in change might become more commonplace.

When I was filling my Whitman albums even finding a common “S” mint coin in change was always just a little bit more thrilling than a “P” or “D” mint.

Since 1968 we collectors have been conditioned to think of “S” mint coins as being proof only. This was due to the Mint moving proof production to the West Coast from the mother mint in Philadelphia.

However, the last gasp of “S” mint change occurred for the cent 1968 to 1974, and with nickels from 1968 to 1970.

The mintmark was revived for circulation due to the coin shortage of the mid-1960s. The Mint was using every bit of capacity it had.

The irony of the end of “S” mint cent production was that the Mint was concerned that collectors were pulling too many “S” mint coins from change so there was no viable addition to the coin supply by making them.

What the coin shortage gave us, the cent shortage of 1974 took away.

The “S” mint circulation-strike quarters of 2012 on are not intended to actually circulate – but we know some will.

I hope other collectors will take up the challenge and see if they can find a circulation-strike “S” mint quarter in their change.

If you happen to be such a collector and you find one of those elusive “S” mint quarters, let me know.

Final note: Yesterday afternoon the Mint revised its total for 5-ounce bullion coins sold in 2015. It was a slight increase. The number of ounces sold now stands at 1,063,000, pushing the overall sales gain from the prior year to 59.25 percent. The small revision does not alter the conclusions of yesterday's blog.

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

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