Not all coins are produced at the same place. Therefore, most coins have a so-called mint mark indicating where they were made.
A mint mark is usually a letter, symbol, or inscription. Its principal purpose is to help fix potential issues.
If a coin is overweight or underweight, has been tampered with, or bears a certain mistake, the mint mark will tell you where it has been made.
In this way, it will be much easier to locate the problem and resolve it.
Currently, there are four mint marks on United States coinage: D, P, S, and W. So, today, I will answer four questions:
- What does the D mean on a penny?
- What does the P mean on a penny?
- What does the S mean on a penny?
- What does the W mean on a penny?
As you can see, I have my work cut out for myself today, so we should better start immediately!
What Does The D Mean On a Penny?
The D on a penny stands for the Denver Mint. It means that that particular coin has been minted in Denver, Colorado. US coins that bear the stamp D have been minted in Denver since 1911. Before that, coins that bore this stamp were made in the Dahlonega Mint.
The first US Mint was established in Philadelphia in 1793. It used to produce large cents and the half cents made of pure copper.
Later on, eight more US mints were founded across the USA. These were considered “branch mints.”
Historical overview of US Branch Mints
|US Branch Mint (by location)||When did it open?||What was the mintmark used to distinguish coins produced in this mint?||Years mintmark has been used|
|The Dahlonega Mint||February 12, 1838.||D||1838-1861|
|The Charlotte Mint||March 27, 1838.||C||1838-1861|
|The New Orleans Mint||May 8, 1838.||O||1838-1861, 1879-1909|
|The San Francisco Mint||April 3, 1854.||S||1854-1955, 1968-Present|
|The Carson City Mint||February 11, 1870.||CC||1870-1893|
|The Denver Mint||February 1, 1906.||D||1906-Present|
|The Manila Mint||July 15, 1920.||M||1925 -1941|
|The West Point Mint||July 29, 1974.||W||1984-Present|
As seen in this table, the D on a penny that had been made before the Denver Mint was opened stands for the Dahlonega Mint. This mint was closed in 1861 and was never re-opened.
Why Are D Pennies Valuable?
Not all D pennies are valuable. Quite the opposite, those minted recently are worth only a penny. Valuable D pennies are the ones that are in mint condition, rare, and have a distinctive feature.
Wheat pennies minted from 1909 to 1956 are worth 4 to 5 cents, except for those in perfect condition, which are usually worth far more. Hence, a D wheat penny in certified mint state (MS+) condition can be sold at auction for more than $300.
D pennies minted from 1879 to 1909 will generally earn you a $1 minimum.
The most valuable D pennies are the rarest ones. They usually have a certain mistake that makes them stand out (smaller numbers minted, missing mint mark, etc.).
The most valuable D pennies
|1922||Lincoln No D Wheat Penny (Strong Reverse and Weak Obverse)||$48,000|
|1922||Lincoln No D Penny (Strong Reverse, Die Pair 2)||$63,000|
|1944||Lincoln D Penny||$115,000|
|1914||Lincoln D Penny||$158,625|
|1943||Lincoln D Bronze Penny||$1,700,000|
What Is a 1964 D Penny Worth?
A 1964 D Penny in average condition is worth only one cent. However, if you have a 1964 D Lincoln penny in certified mint state (MS+) condition, you can sell it at auctions for about $12.
As you can see, having a 1964 D penny won’t make you rich. Sorry about that!
What Does The P Mean On a Penny?
The P on a penny stands for the Philadelphia Mint (the first operating US mint ever). Not all coins produced at this mint bear the P stamp, though. Only those made from 1942 to 1945 and from 1979 to the present have the P mintmark.
Even though the letter P is now used to distinguish coins minted in the Philadelphia Mint, it was not always the case. At first, only branch mints were obliged to use mint marks to differentiate their coins from the ones made in Philadelphia.
Hence, the Philadelphia mint began coin production in early 1793 but started using the P stamp almost a hundred years later, in 1980. The exception is only the wartime (1942-45).
As a result, most coins minted in Philadelphia earlier than 1980 were unmarked. The first P stamp was used on Susan B. Anthony dollars that were produced from 1979 to 1999.
From 1980 to 2017, the Lincoln penny was the only coin that did not necessarily bear a mintmark. Namely, when struck in Denver, it had a D stamp but lacked a P when minted in Philadelphia.
Only in 2017 had the P been struck on the Lincoln cent minted in Philadelphia. This coin was minted for the celebration of 225 years of Philadelphia Mint service.
What Does The S Mean On a Penny?
The S on a penny means it has been minted in the San Francisco Mint. This mint has been stamping S on the pennies from 1854 to 1955 and from 1968 to the present day.
San Francisco coins were never produced in as high quantities as Philadelphia pennies. Yet, most S pennies were struck in millions and are generally not considered rare.
The most valuable S pennies are:
- 1914-S Lincoln Penny, valued at $100,800
- 1909-S VDB Lincoln Penny, valued at $117,500
- 1969-S Lincoln Penny (Doubled Die Obverse), valued at $126,500
- 1926-S Lincoln Penny, valued at $149,500
- 1943-S Lincoln Cent Struck on Bronze, valued at $282,000
- 1944-S Lincoln Steel Penny, valued at $373,750
Most 21st-century coins stamped with S (and W) do not circulate. They are generally minted as collector coinage (bullion, proof coinage, commemorative coinage, etc.). These coins are sold by the US Mint to collectors or authorized bullion wholesalers.
What Does The W Mean On A Penny?
The W on a penny means it has been produced in the West Point Mint. Even though this mint began coin production in 1974, at first, their coinage bore no mintmark. The first W stamp has been used on coins commemorating the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Hence, before 1984, the West Point coins could not be distinguished from those minted in Philadelphia.
Most pennies around your house are not worth more than their face value. It does not mean you should not be on the lookout for the ones that can fetch real dollars.
Always double-check your pocket change. A penny, such as the 1943 Lincoln D Bronze penny, might make you a millionaire.
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