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So many versions cause a headache

 The 2018-S Pictured Rocks quarter proof. (Image courtesy

The 2018-S Pictured Rocks quarter proof. (Image courtesy

What do my mother’s pills and coin collectors have in common?

The thought occurred to me as I received a question this week from a reader that I have placed in the Letters section of the Feb. 12 issue of Numismatic News. There was no room to respond to the question on that page, so I will use this space to elaborate.

It also coincided with a discussion I have just had with a nurse about my mother’s medications. The nurse worries that my mother will lose track of them. At my mother’s advanced age, it is a worry. But the situation is not helped when the same medicine is called different things interchangeably.

For example, my mother is taking acetaminophen, which is the generic name for Tylenol. Another brand is Mapap. Her nurses use all three names at various times. Usually when the bottle says one thing, they will use another name for it and then wonder why my mother is confused, even though she is perfectly able to read instructions.

Coin collectors are facing the same thing about the coins they encounter.

The letter I mentioned earlier was written by a reader whose son found 16 “S” mintmarked 2018 Pictured Rock quarters in change. That’s quite a find, since the “S” quarters are made exclusively for sale to collectors and are not intended to go into circulation.

In the pre-1968 period, “S” quarters meant one thing. They were struck for circulation in San Francisco and released through the banking system.

Then clad proof sets came along with “S” mintmarks in 1968. An “S” quarter from this time is assumed to be a refugee from a broken up proof set. The “S” clad proof set continues to the present day.

In 1992, the “S” mintmark was put on silver proof quarters. The silver proof set continues to be made to the present day.

In 2012, the Mint began selling “S” clad quarters with an uncirculated finish to collectors in bags and rolls.

So like my mother’s pills, we have three “S” quarters each year: the clad proof, the silver proof, and the bag and roll uncirculated clad version.

I make the assumption that the 16 Pictured Rocks quarters are escapees from some collector’s bag or roll quantity. This is how I responded to the question.

But like the nurse worried about my mother confusing three names for the same pill (don’t get me started on another medicine that comes in different shapes), I can worry about three “S” quarters and trying to help average collectors keep them straight.

It gets worse when we talk about other denominations. Proofs can be made not only at San Francisco but also at Philadelphia and West Point. Why not let’s throw Denver into the mix to maximize confusion?

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

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