A quick follow-up to last week’s column in which I told of a situation with a customer who was offered $650 for a baseball card collection for which I subsequently paid $2,000. A customer commented that I could have bought the collection for a much lower price if I just beat the $650 offer. To me, it’s about offering a fair price, one that’s fair to both the buyer and seller. I was content to pay $2,000 because I felt it was fair and would provide a fair return on my investment. No regrets.
Now for the rest of the story. The U.S. Mint was established in Philadelphia in 1792 and struck its first coins, half cents and cents, in 1793. Since the Philadelphia Mint was the only government mint, and would remain so until 1838, there was no need to place a mintmark on the coins.
As our country grew and its need for coins grew, it made sense to establish new mints in the areas of growing population. It then became prudent to mark the coins with an identifier, or mintmark, to show where the coin was struck. The reason goes back many centuries; if there is a problem with the coin, metal content, design, etc., one would know where the coin originated and steps could be taken to correct the problem.
This came home to roost when during the years 1965 to 1967 the Denver Mint, which was the only other mint striking coins for circulation along with the Philadelphia Mint, stopped adding a mintmark to its coins. Sure enough, a problem developed and it took longer to pinpoint the source. Mintmarks were returned to coins in 1968.
As the number of mints increased in the United States and an identifying mintmark was added to the coins they struck, the one constant was that the Philadelphia coins had no mintmark. That held true until 1979 when the “P” was added to the Susan B. Anthony dollars struck in Philadelphia. (An exception was during the war years of 1942-1942 when the metallic content of the 5 cent coin was changed to reduce the copper and replace it with silver. The Philadelphia Mint as well as the Denver and San Francisco mints all placed large mintmarks on the reverse of the coin to signify the change. After the war's end, from 1946 forward, the mintmark for Philadelphia was discontinued and the other two mints returned their marks to the original location on the right side of the reverse of the coin.)
Starting with 1980, all coins struck at the Philadelphia Mint, with the exception of the 1 cent coin, had the “P” added. Why? Who knows. Maybe the Philadelphia mint developed an inferiority complex due to the other mints having their identifier added to the coins they struck. After all, since 1793 it was understood that a coin without a mintmark was minted in Philadelphia. So why change?
Fast forward to this year, 2017. Since this year marks the 225th anniversary of the establishment of the Philadelphia Mint, it has been decided (by someone high in government), to mark the occasion by adding the “P” mintmark to the 1 cent coin, but only for this one year.
I know the mint is an inanimate object that has no feelings, but if it did, how would it feel to have its 225th anniversary celebrated with a 1 cent coin? I guess there is some logic, since some of the first coins struck at the Philadelphia mint were cents, but there is no comparison to those first 1 cent coins and what are minted today. Cents in 1793 went a long way, whereas cents today are just as likely to be discarded or relegated to some form of storage rather than be used in commerce. I think a better form of recognition would have been more appropriate. But then, I’m not high in government.
Douglas Keefe is the president of Beachcomber Coins Inc. He and his wife, Linda, operate Beachcomber Coins and Collectibles, formerly in the Shore Mall and now at 6692 Black Horse Pike in the old Wawa building just beyond the former Cardiff Circle. They have satellite offices in Brigantine and Absecon. Between them they have more than 70 years of experience in the coin and precious metals business. They are members of the American Numismatic Association, the Industry Council of Tangible Assets, the Numismatic Guarantee Corporation, the Certified Coin Exchange and the Professional Coin Grading Service.