trivia - mint marks
You probably know a mint mark is used on coins to designate what mint produced the coin, but do you know when mint marks began appearing on coins and the original motive for putting mint marks on coins?
Some precious-metal coins were issued with Mint marks as early as the reign of Vespasian, 69 to 79 AD, but the practice did not become regular until the middle of the third century.
Mintmarks were first developed to locate a problem. If a coin was underweight, or overweight, the mintmark would immediately tell where the coin was minted, and the problem could be fixed. Another problem which could occur would be a dishonest mint official debasing the coin, or putting less precious metal in the coin than specified. The first mint marks, called "Magistrate Marks" were developed by the Greeks, and named the Magistrate in charge of producing that coin. Debasing a coin, or otherwise tampering with it, was a very serious crime, often punishable by death in many civilizations. For example, in 1649, the directors of the Spanish colonial American Mint at Potosi, in what is today Bolivia, were condemned to death for seriously debasing the coinage. The initials of the assayer, as well as the mint mark, were immediate identifiers when the coins were inspected.
Some numismatists believe the old Spanish mintmarks like Potosi, Mexico City and others using a Capital letter and a smaller letter above it are actually Privy Marks. Click for image, Mint mark,little o is located above large M on reverse just before 8R: http://www.coinpage.com/coin-image-1659.html
Many mints of the world commonly use a Privy Mark, which is a symbol unique to each mint. The Royal Canadian Mint commonly used a maple leaf Privy Mark (this year the corporate logo of the mint has become it's Privy Mark). The Monnaie de Paris uses many different Privy Marks to denote each branch mint, including a torch, cornucopia, or thunderbolt.
Many Islamic coins bear an inscription telling which mint produced the coin. This inscription is often the name of the city where the coin was minted spelled out in Arabic script. Greece used dual letters in Greek typeface (AA, AB, BC, etc,) as a privy mark.
As you know, Philadelphia is the only mint in the U.S.A. for which no mint mark was placed on our coins. It was only after Dahlonega and Carson City branch mints opened, that mint marks were placed on U.S.A. coins. "D" for Dahlonega (for Denver in 1908), "CC" for Carson City, "O" for New Orleans, "S" for San Francisco and "W" for West Point.
NOTE 1. However, some foreign coins struck by Philadelphia bear the "P" mintmark or more: In 1914 and 16 Philadelphia struck silver 2-Decimos coins for Ecuador. Instead of a "P" mint mark, the whole word "PHILIDELPHIA" is on the reverse. It also struck silver 50-Centavos coins which have "PHILA-U-S-A" on their reverse sides. "PHILA-U-S-A" is on the reverse of the Ecuadorian 1928, 30 and 34 silver Sucre coins too.
Many Countries use single letters denoting the mint who struck the coin, but do you know some countries use "A" for the main mint and use "B", "C", etc for the branch mints in order of importance or according to the time they became a mint.
For example: Germany uses "A" for Berlin, "D" for Munich, "E" for Muldenhutten, "F" for Stuttgart, "K" for Karlesruhe and "J" for Hamburg. You probably know that, but do you know stars were used as Privy Marks to denote the mints in which they were struck? A three-pointed star meant a certain mint, a four-pointer was for another mint and a five-pointed star designated still a different mint. Click on this link and see an 1874 Spanish 5-peseta which has a six-pointed star before the date and one after the date signaling it was struck at the Madrid Mint. http://www.coinworld.com/news/012306/bw1_big.jpg
Ancient Rome originated Mint marks after the spread of territory and rule by emperors. During most of the days of the Republic, almost to 1 B.C., coinage was confined to Rome. In the final half-century of the Republic, military leaders increasingly asserted the right to coin money for payment to soldiers occupying far-flung nations.
Privy Marks were used as a necessary control in ancient, medieval, and colonial times. Some of those Privy Marks were miniature "works of art" because the engraver or mintmaster was very proud of his work.
NOTE: 2. In the past few decades with the latest in die production tools, Privy Marks have, once again, appeared on coins as miniature "works of art", but they are used to merchandise proof sets and other coins struck for the numismatic trade.(Witness the proof, bullion and other numismatic strikes in Austrailia).
NOTE. 3. The Havana Mint in Cuba uses a key as a Privy Mark on the coins it strikes. Look below the date of the coin linked here: http://www.coinworld.com/news/012306/bw2_big.jpg
Originally Posted by Clinker
There were actually 42 people directly connected with the mint and 38 others in the area convicted in the Potosi scandal, some were hanged, some beheaded, some sent to prison, some exiled and some were fined. They took this stuff quite seriously.
A similar event occurred in 13th Century England in the Assize of the Moneyers in which some moneyers were put to death for striking inferior coins.The offending moneyers were identified by their names & provenance marks.
Half Cent Nut
Neat article, but you left out the C mintmark for Charlotte, NC. :-)Fish
Last edited by Fish; 11-21-2006 at 11:25 PM.
Reason: Fixing spacing
Thanks to everybody for adding your knowledge to this trivia.
Someone just has to make a permanent forum for articles like this.
Just click on "Search" at the top of any page, and input the word "Trivia" to see a list of links to all 47 of Clinker's threads, and 55 other threads where the word appears - so far.
Originally Posted by Just Carl
Last edited by satootoko; 11-23-2006 at 09:51 AM.
Originally Posted by satootoko
Thanks for letting us know that! You just taught me something!