Skip to main content

Do dates mean anything on coins?

On Dec. 18, 2017, the British Royal Mint announced it was launching its “2018 bullion sovereign coins – the sovereign and the half sovereign.”

The announcement continues, “The bullion sovereign is available at The Royal Mint’s trading web site,” indicating the coin was available immediately.


As of Dec. 19, the Royal Canadian Mint was selling 2018-dated, two-coin 30th Anniversary of the Silver Maple Leaf coins, Ying and Yang Tiger and Dragon color-enhanced coins dated 2018 and January birthstone coins with Swarovski® crystal, all of these issues being available online.

A check of the Royal Australian Mint website on the same day indicated that the 2018 FIFA World Cup silver $1 coin was already being sold.

Likewise, the Perth Mint in Western Australia was offering 2018-dated Chinese astrology coins, a money toad silver coin, Wealth and Wisdom Lunar Good Fortune coin, a happy birthday coin for 2018 and 2018 Chinese New Year coin during December 2017. The Chinese New Year was not until Feb. 16 in 2018.

According to the Apmex Inc. website, you could “Shop the entire 2018 [gold and silver] Elephant [bullion] series today while products are still in stock.” This was on Dec. 18, 2017.

Do dates still mean anything on coins? Coin collectors may not want to hear this question, but what function do dates and mintmarks really have on coins of today, circulating or otherwise?

There are good arguments to continue to place dates, mintmarks and, in some instances, the name of the mint master on coins. But you have to wonder after you find the many coins on which the date may be a benchmark, but isn’t accurate to the issuance or striking of the coins.

Before you wring your hands, worrying this article could trigger a worldwide effort by mints to remove dates from circulating coinage, consider the long history of frozen or otherwise inaccurate dates on coins from the past.

We don’t need to look much further than the United States for examples. The 1652-dated Massachusetts Pine Tree shilling was struck for years after that calendar year. The British crown forbade the colony to continue striking the coins, prompting future issues to be backdated to avoid this inconvenient demand.

There are a number of U.S. Mint reports that record mintages based on the year the coins were shipped rather than the year the coins might have either been struck or dated. As an example, whatever happened to the 12,000 reported 1895 business strike Morgan silver dollars, while only 880 proofs have been able to be documented?

In more modern history, the United States continued to strike 1964-dated Kennedy half dollars into the following year. The U.S. Mint also struck 1964-D Peace dollar coins in 1965. The silver dollars were later melted rather than be released. The United States began issuing 1776-1976 dated Bicentennial coins in 1975, continuing to produce them after the Bicentennial celebration ended simply to fill a backlog of mint and proof set orders.

Among other frozen date coins are Mexican gold coins of 1945 and 1959, Austrian gold coins dated 1915 and the well-known 1780-dated Maria Theresia silver taler that has been struck by at least 11 different mints and is still produced bearing that same date today.

In 2016, Director of the [British] Royal Mint Museum Kevin Clancy was asked why a date should appear on bullion coins. Clancy replied, “When a new market began to open up with bullion coins it followed on that tradition. And coins almost look invalid without dates. The year forms part of the fabric of what we think makes up a coin.”

As it was put in a 2011 posting, “Dates on coins were, and in theory still are, helpful in recalling old coinage or otherwise controlling the currency. The statisticians can also use the dates: when worn-out or damaged coinage is returned for melting down and re-issue, statistical analysis of the dates can tell the government how long its coins last in circulation, and therefore helps to estimate the need for striking new coins. The government also has the right to declare that ‘All coins struck before 1980...’ or whenever ‘...are no longer legal tender.’ Under such circumstances, dates on coins allow not just the government but the public as well to easily tell which coins are good and which coins aren’t good any more.”

Switzerland is a good example of this, having demonetized its copper-nickel composition 5-franc coins of 1985 to 1993 in addition to all its circulation strike silver and gold composition coins.

This article was originally printed in World Coin News. >> Subscribe today.

More Collecting Resources

• Are you a U.S. coin collector? Check out the 2019 U.S. Coin Digest for the most recent coin prices.

• Check out the newly-updated Standard Catalog of World Coins, 2001-Date that provides accurate identification, listing and pricing information for the latest coin releases.