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Mint, all you need to know to identify the origin of the coins

More than 700 dollars difference exists between two almost identical coins, one with visible mint and one without mint. Why so much? The answer in this article.

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Ceca de la Moneda

There is a difference of more than 700 dollars between two almost identical coins, one with a visible mint and one without. Why so much? You will find the answer in this article, along with other interesting facts you may not know about mints.

With the mint of the coins something similar happens to other elements such as the edge, the listel or the graphite. Parts of coins that I have written about in this blog, and that have aroused the curiosity of more than one for numismatics and coin collecting. Now it is the turn of the Mint, I assure you that you are about to read a text full of valuable information.

What is the Mint of the coin?

The mint of a coin is the mint, or mint where it was minted. The term is also used to name the mark on the coin that indicates the provenance, or place where it was minted.

The word mint comes from the Arabic word “Sikka”. This Arabic word means coin or die. That is, etymologically Mint has always been linked to the manufacture and engraving of coins.

Although many mints have their own names, it is common for numismatists and collectors to refer to them as the Mint of the place where they are located. For example, the Empresa Cubana de Acuñaciones is known as the Cuban Mint, and the Spanish Mint is called the Fábrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre – Real Casa de la Moneda (FNMT-RCM).

Why is the mint of a coin important?

Knowing the mint of a coin is not so relevant for people who use them as a means of exchange or savings. Two coins of the same denomination in circulation are worth the same regardless of where they were minted. All 2 euro coins are worth the same, whether one was minted in the mints of Germany, France or Spain.

However, identifying the mint of a coin is very important for collectors, numismatists, and anyone who interacts in any way in the collectible coin market. The origin of the coin is often a relevant element in knowing its collectible value.

This importance for collectors is more marked in countries such as Germany or the United States where there are several mints. Several mints.

For example, between these two 1851 3 cent coins the most visible difference is the mint from which each came.

Three Cents dollar
Three Cents dollar

The coin on the left was minted in Philadelphia, and has no mint mark. The other has an O to the right of the C, which is representative of the New Orleans Mint. Despite being similar coins, the Philadelphia Mint 3 cents fetch between  $200 to $275 , while the piece with the visible Mint mark is valued at over  $1,000 .

How to recognize the mint of a coin?

The quickest way to recognize the mint of a coin is to look for the mint mark on the design of the coin. However, this raises two problems to take into consideration.

  • First, to identify the mint on the coin we must first know the type of mintmark that the mint uses. As we will see below, there are different types of mintmarks, and not all mints use the same ones.
  • The second point to consider is that some mints do not mark their coins.

Then, if you know the shape or symbol with which the Mint represents itself on the coins it mints, you can look for that mark. It may be included on the obverse or reverse of the coin.

The second and possibly the most effective way to recognize a mint is to consult technical documentation about the coin. If it is a modern coin you could access the official website of the Central Bank of the issuing country.

About ancient coins you can consult a specialized catalog. There are many and they almost always include information about the origin of the coins they collect. For example, if you are interested in U.S. coins you can always check the Red Book and look for the specimen you are interested in.

Types of Mint

Next we will review the different types of mints that exist. In other words, the different ways in which the mints or mints are represented in their monetary productions.

Mint marks with letters

Mint stamps with letters are the most common ones. A letter is added to the obverse or reverse design, which generally corresponds to the initial of the name of the place where the mint is located. Sometimes the letter may be accompanied by a decorative element, as in Mexican pieces such as this one.

Mexico Mint
Mexico Mint

This beautiful 8 escudos coin from 1750 is a perfect example of a mint mark with accompanying decorative lettering. Mexico continues to use this mark today. Other countries only add a letter and nothing else.

Mint marks in the form of monograms

A monogram is a visual construction made by combining different letters and/or numbers. Some mints have used and continue to use monograms to indicate the mint of the coin.

Potosí Mint
Potosí Mint

The most representative historical case is the Potosi mint in Bolivia, where they used a monogram elegantly mixing several letters in the way you have just seen. This type of mark is very common on columnar coins, minted between 1767 and 1870, already under the new Republic of Bolivia.

NOTE: As a curious fact, the monogram was used on coins as well as on official documents related to the Casa de Monedas de Potosí.

Absence of a mint mark to identify the mint.

Many mints do not mark the coins they issue, some do and some do not. In any case, when you find a coin where it is impossible to identify at a glance the mint because it lacks a mark, the solution is to look for the information in the available catalogs.

Philadelphia Mint
Philadelphia Mint

I believe the exception is coins minted prior to 1980 at the Phipaldephia Mint in the United States. While the other mints were identified with letters, the absence of a mark on a piece was indicative that it was minted in Philadelphia, just like this 1965 Half Dollar. Currently, the coins of this mint bear the letter P indicating their origin.

Other forms of mint marks

There are other ways of representing the mints, although they are less common than those mentioned above. For example, in some cases the mint was represented with a drawing or merely graphic element, such as the 8 reales of Segovia below.

Segovia Mint
Segovia Mint

While other mints chose to include the full name of the place where the coin was minted. This was a common practice in the Middle Ages, and quite widespread in Rome. We can see an example in the following ancient Roman coin.

Mint of Rome
Mint of Rome

These two ways of representing the mints of the coins are currently in disuse.

Are there coin mints in every country?

In many countries there are no mints or mints. When a country lacks a mint, it contracts the minting of its coins to the mint of another nation.

If what you have just read seems strange to you, let me tell you that it is more common than you imagine. In fact, an article published by José María Martínez Gallego in Numismatico Digital (Spanish content) lists 63 state mints where most of the coins of 223 countries are minted.

Here you are probably asking yourself the same question I asked myself: Are there coins from one country with mint marks from other countries? I know of at least one case. The 5 Uruguayan peso coin minted in 2005 has the mint mark of the Chilean mint.

Chile Mint
Chile Mint

It is curious, because the same coin design, minted at the same Mint, but dated 2 years earlier, does not have the Mint mark. Why was the Mint not included in 2003 and two years later? I don’t have an answer for that.

So, back to the topic, while most countries do not have a mint, others like the United States and Germany maintain more than one active state mint. Just as I mentioned before.

If you are as perceptive a person as I imagine, you may have noticed that up to this point I used the word state several times to refer to the mints. I did so very intentionally, which brings us to the next question.

Do mints always belong to governments?

The answer is NO. Around the world there are many private mints, which compete in quality with their state counterparts. In fact, according to the Martínez Gallego article cited above, in the United States we must add 22 private numismatic workshops to the state mints.

NOTE: In reality, all of these state mints are dependencies of the United States Mint, which has its base of operations in Washington, D.C.

Two private mints in the USA that caught my attention powerfully are the American Mint Private Mint, and the Alaska Mint. At the first Mint you can buy a gold-plated coin dedicated to Donald Trump. A coin as fake as… there I leave it. In the Alaska Private Mint you can buy a beautiful medallions (these ones in gold) with representative motifs of the State.

Private Mint USA
Private Mint USA

Other countries where private mints exist are Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Switzerland. The list is longer, but I think you get the idea.

By way of summary about the mints

I hope this article has been to your liking, and from now on you will be able to recognize where a coin was minted as soon as you look at it. In some cases it will be impossible to identify it, when the mint mark is missing, but in others discovering the origin of the piece can be very rewarding.

If you liked the article, share it with your friends through social networks, or in the most active WhatsApp group where you are. This wonderful world of coin collecting is open to everyone.

Kossi Adzo is the editor and author of Startup.info. He is software engineer. Innovation, Businesses and companies are his passion. He filled several patents in IT & Communication technologies. He manages the technical operations at Startup.info.

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