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Jefferson Nickel Mint Marks

In numismatics, it pays to pay attention to detail.  That is why so much importance is placed on those fine details.  The mint mark is one of those crucial details an amateur can learn rather easily to greatly improve his knowledge of rare and current coins.  The tiny, distinct lettering, placed all by itself and sometimes changing in location on the same coin from year to year, serves a crucial purpose to identify coins of the same year, and has been of great importance to numismatics since the opening of the second, third, and fourth U.S. Mint, all in 1838.

The first U.S Mint was established by the Treasury Department in Philadelphia in 1792, but as demands for more coins grew, Mint officials knew that the main office in Philadelphia would not be enough.  So, in 1838, three new branches were established in New Orleans, Louisiana, Dahlonega, Georgia,, and Charlotte, North Carolina.  In order to identify and track the pieces made at the new facilities, they were stamped with a one letter identifier, known as a mint mark.  As Philadelphia was first, and consequently the only mint in operation before 1838, no mint mark was placed on the coins it produced, and it continued with that practice after 1838 as well.

Jefferson nickels were produced at three mint facilities, the original Philadelphia Mint, the mint established at Denver in 1909, and the mint at San Fransisco, established in 1854.  For all years issued of the Jefferson nickel, there has been a Philadelphia issued coin.  There is no mint mark however on coins dated from 1938-1941, and 1946 to 1979.  In 1942-1945 and from 1980 to today, Philadelphia has be denoted by the letter P on U.S. coins.  Denver has used the D mark, and San Fransisco the S mark, and both have always used their respective marks, except during the hiatus of silver coins, from 1965-1967 (since these coins are identical to ones made at other facilities, coins of these years are treated as all of the same issue)..

The location of the mint marks varies over time, and may be indicators of a certain change in the coin.  Originally the mint mark was located on the reverse of the coin, to the right of the Monticello.  During WWII, the mark was moved to above the building, in large type so that they would be distinguishable from the regular issue.  After the war the mint mark was moved to its original location on the coin.  After the mint mark suspension was lifted in 1968, the mint mark was moved to the obverse of the coin, beneath the date.  In modern nickels the mint mark has moved to below the word liberty, but still on the front of the coin.

The attention to mint marks, specially the silver containing war issue nickels, will reward the collector with rare finds, and an extensive collection.

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