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The Letter “P” and the Penny Highlight Philadelphia Mint’s 225th Anniversary

The word from Numismatic News is that the Philadelphia Mint hopes the interest of current and potential coin collectors will mount in 2017 with its production of the cent inclusive of a mintmark, “P.” You might ask how or why a tiny letter would create any significant pop in collection activity. If you know anything about the 225-year history of the Philadelphia Mint, you may be aware that this mint traditionally prints no mintmark on its cent pieces. But, as the mint reaches its 225th year of operation, it is making an exception in order to celebrate and commemorate the anniversary.

Originally, the Philadelphia Mint had no reason to place a mintmark on any of its coins because it was the only existing mint producing coin currency in the United States from 1792 until 1838, when gold coin minting facilities started to surface and create the need for mint marks. Still, Philadelphia continued using no mintmark on its coins even after the San Francisco Mint began producing cent pieces and other coin currency. San Francisco used an “S,” and later, Denver, a “D,” as mintmarks when they began production of the cent in 1908 and 1911, respectively.

Except for the cent, the Philadelphia Mint has marked all of its coin currency with a “P” since 1980. Only one time prior to that did the mint ever break tradition and use a mintmark. During WWII, between the years of 1942 and 1945, mintmarks on the nickel were enlarged and repositioned to appear above Monticello’s dome. This was done in order to indicate a composition change to 35 percent silver as opposed to the coin’s typical makeup of 25 percent nickel alloy and 75 percent copper. In this instance, Philadelphia used a “P” as well. Things went back to normal, though, once the war ended. Nickel mintmarks were again placed to the right of Monticello’s dome, and Philadelphia removed its “P.”

It will be interesting to see the reaction of coin collectors and enthusiasts as well as that of the general public. For some, the broken tradition may cause disappointment, but for others, it could be an inspiration to begin a coin collection or to invest further by purchasing a set of these unique coins. The hope is that this commemorative coin will not only observe the history behind the Philadelphia Mint, but also be the impetus for a surge of activity between coin buyers and sellers and the pathway for a new wave of engaged coin collectors to swell.