Some coins bear a mark of distinction...
Each branch of the United States Mint has a code letter called a "mint mark" to show which branch struck a coin, but not every coin has a mint mark. The Mint has used seven different mint marks for eight branches because one mark was recycled! Denver's "D" used to stand for "Dahlonega" (Georgia), a branch that closed during the Civil War.
Is your coin marked? Maybe, maybe not...
Most coins made at the United States Mint get a mint mark—a letter code that shows which branch struck the coin. Philadelphia doesn't always use a mark because it was the first branch. And no marks were used in 1965 through 1967. But today, most coins except Philadelphia's have mint marks on the back.
The Mint has branches—and some get pruned...
The United States Mint began making coins in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which was the capital of the United States at the time. The first branches opened in Louisiana, Georgia, and North Carolina because gold was discovered nearby, but those branches are not operating today. Branches in California, Colorado, and Nevada soon followed, but the Nevada branch has also been "pruned." The newest branch is in West Point, New York.
Coins, like students, can get low grades...
One way coin collectors grade coins is on a scale of 1 through 70. The coin's grade depends on its condition—dull or shiny, worn or crisp, nicked and scratched or clean. Fortunately, there's no special grade a coin has to reach to pass the collectible test!
We would be eating the national bird!...
If Ben Franklin had had his way, the turkey would be our national bird. Maybe then the $2.50 gold coin called the "quarter eagle" would be called the "quarter turkey." Sounds more like a menu item, doesn't it? And if the astronaut who landed on the moon had said "The turkey has landed," ...it just wouldn't be the same.
There was a lot of horsing around at the early Mint...
We often rate the power of engines by "horsepower," but in the early Mint, the power came from real horses! Yes, harnessed horses were one way the machines got the energy to make coins.
Our first commemorative coins were first seen at a World's Fair...
1892 was the 400th anniversary of Columbus discovering America. To celebrate, Congress provided money for a world's fair. Chicago hosted the "Columbian Exposition," as it was called, and two special coins were created for the event. The half dollar coin featured a bust of the explorer and sold at the fair for one dollar. The quarter dollar showed Queen Isabella of Spain, who financed the trip.
A minister first put in his two cents...
The first recorded person (of many) who saw that a religious saying deserved to be on our coins was a Reverend Watson of Pennsylvania. He wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury about it, and soon the motto "In God we trust" appeared on our two-cent coins. We no longer use two-cent coins, but we do use the faithful phrase on all the rest of our coins, as well as our paper money.
Once it was hard to tell a penny from a dime...
Although they are different colors, pennies and dimes are very close in size. In 1943, copper was needed for war materials, so pennies were made out of zinc-coated steel. Because the color was silvery, it was easy to mistake a penny for a dime. Fortunately, pennies were only made that way for one year.
Inside and out, our change has changed!
Not only have our coin designs changed over the years, but our coin materials have changed too. The first coins were made of either gold, silver, or copper. In today's circulating coins, copper is the only one of the metals still used, and in very small amounts. We also use nickel and zinc.