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The E-Sylum (1/22/2017)

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The big news in the U.S. numismatic world this week was the Mint's sly introduction of a mintmarked Philadelphia cent. Diana Plattner of the Mint News Blog summed it up well on January 18, 2017. With permission, here's her complete article. -Editor

2017-P cent on Mint Plaque

What you’ve heard is true. Quietly, and all unannounced, the Mint has slipped pennies with the Philadelphia Mint’s "P" mintmark into circulation.

Now, if you’re up to date with your U.S. penny history, you can skip to the next paragraph. If not, try this: Pick up a copy of the Red Book—doesn’t matter what edition—and flip to the beginning of the section on small cents. First page: Flying Eagles. Skim down the left column: 1856, 1857, 1858. See any coins with the P mintmark? No? Flip to the Indian Head cents: 1859, 1860, 1861—nope, still no letter P. Turn every page to the end of the denomination, and you won’t find a single penny with a P mintmark. Flip back to the large cents; you won’t find any there, either.

In other words, the only P-mintmarked cents in the U.S. Mint’s 225-year history have emerged in total secrecy. Released to banks in early January, the coins went unnoticed until a collector named Terry Granstaff found one in change on January 13 and posted it to a PCGS discussion board. Coin World was able to confirm the authenticity of the 2017-P coin soon afterward and brought the story to light.

The stated reasons for mintmarking the 2017 cents were that (1) the move is one of several planned events during the Mint’s 225th-anniversary celebrations, and that (2) it calls attention to the pride and hard work of the staff at the Philadelphia Mint. Perfectly legitimate reasons. As to why they kept it secret, Tom Jurkowsky, director of the Mint’s Office of Corporate Communication, told Coin World that the Mint wanted to see how long it would take the public to notice and bring the coins to the Mint’s attention. Again, that seems reasonable—and what better (and cheaper) way to stir up excitement about the anniversary program as a whole?

But when you compare the cent and the American Liberty gold coin, the extreme contrast between the two suggests there’s more to this than a bit of quasquibicentennial hijinks.

Consider the context. The Mint has been criticized for years for being, or at least appearing to be, out of touch with everyday collectors. Moreover, there’s a growing feeling in numismatics that the tail has begun to wag the dog. At the birth of the hobby, people studied and collected coins that were struck by the Mint in the course of its everyday business; today, collectors spend a lot of time and money pursuing Mint products that exist only for the purpose of being collected. Not that a healthy retail market for specially created coins is a bad thing—or that the Mint is to blame for changes in the culture or the economy. But (1) the situation exists, (2) collectors don’t like it, and (3) when collectors perceive that the Mint is glad to take their money but deaf to their concerns, it makes them angry.

The 2017 American Liberty high-relief gold coin is exactly the kind of high-ticket offering that elicits both cheers and groans from collectors. A penny from your pocket change, on the other hand, is literally the single cheapest U.S. Mint product in existence. The former is a catalog item with potential investor value; the latter is a nod to the hobbyist who collects for enjoyment. Quietly timing the release of the one amid the hoopla surrounding the other, aside from being a shrewd marketing tactic, has the feeling of making a statement. As if someone at the Mint might be saying, "We get it. And we’re trying."

If so, collectors have reason to celebrate, and to be happy it’s only January. With hints at other surprises to come from the Mint as the anniversary celebrations roll along, this could be an interesting year for modern U.S. numismatics.

To read the complete article, see:
2017-P Cent Makes a Big Stir with Zero Marketing Dollars (

Here's more from Coin World. -Editor

2017-p-lincoln-cent Jurkowsky said the idea to add the Mint mark to the Philadelphia Mint strikes was recommended by facility employees to help recognize the achievements and pride of the Philadelphia Mint’s work force.

"This gesture, the adding of one little letter, goes a long way," Jurkowsky said.

The P Mint mark is added to the master die so that all working hubs and working dies will bear the Mint mark in the same position, in the field below the date.

To read the complete article, see:
It’s really true: Cents struck at Philadelphia Mint in 2017 bear P Mint mark (

Kudos to the Mint for the great publicity, intended or not. The story was soon on outlets around the world. I'll have to admit that although I'm still a heavy user of coins (yeah, I'm that Old Guy with Exact Change holding up the line), I don't look at all my coins closely. It could have been a while before I noticed the new mintmark. Heck, it was years after the "spaghetti hair" modifications to the Washington Quarter that I looked down in horror to gasp, "Sweet Jesus! WHAT have they DONE????!!!" -Editor

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To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

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