Even if you are brand new to collecting coins or investing in precious metals, you are no doubt aware that the markings on coins are clues to both their place of origin and value. Two marks that are a bit confusing to distinguish at first are privy marks and mint marks. Here is an explanation of the difference between the two, and examples of the coins and bullion rounds that bear them. .
The purpose of a mint mark has always been to identify the facility that produced it. For example, most United States coins bear a P, D, or S, indicating origins in the Philadelphia, Denver, or San Francisco mints. The US Assay Commission, founded the same year George Washington left office, examined gold and silver coins to ensure their quality, and required the marks as a means to hold each mint accountable for its products. The US abolished the commission in 1977, but the mint mark tradition continues.
At one time, makers of Canadian coins occasionally used mint marks for the same purpose as the US did. For example, the letter C indicates that an old coin hails from the Ottawa mint, rather than from the United Kingdom’s Royal Mint, and the letter H stands for the Heaton mint in Birmingham. Now that the Canadian government makes all its own circulation coins from the same mint, the Royal Canadian Mint facility in Winnipeg, mint marks are not necessary to differentiate among makers and few coins bear them.
First used in England in the 1300s, privy marks let a coin collector in on more information about a coin besides just its minting location. Coins bearing these marks are generally limited editions or those commemorating special events, and the design of the mark itself gives a clue to its meaning. The US has rarely used privy marks, but they are common on Canadian, Chinese, and Australian coins.
Canadian coin designers are extremely creative in their use of symbols as privy marks. Here are a few examples of mark designs and the events, achievements, and wildlife they serve to commemorate:
- Fireworks to celebrate the new millennium.
- A Mark V tank to recognize the Canadian military’s achievements in World War I.
- A monkey to honour the Chinese zodiac signs.
- E=mc2 to pay tribute to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.
Silver Bullion Canada
The variety of privy marks on Canadian silver bullion coins is one of the most interesting aspects of any collection. These small yet easily identifiable designs seem to come alive when observers look at them under a microscope. Collecting an entire series, such as the 12 coins of the 1998 to 2009 Chinese Zodiac series, allows for comparison and an appreciation of the artist’s overall concept. Some coins acknowledge the artist by including initials where a privy mark would normally go. An example of such a mark is the 2016 Peregrine Falcon coin in the Canadian Birds of Prey series.
On December 9, 2019, 10,000 2020-W Burnished Silver Maple Leaf coins made history with their W mint marks. These coins are truly unusual because, since the series began in 1988, a silver maple leaf coin had never had a mint mark. The symbolism of the mint mark, in this case, went beyond just naming the Winnipeg mint as the coin’s creator because it also commemorated the production of that mint’s first-ever collector-quality coin, as opposed to its normal circulation coin production.
Colonial Acres Coins
Colonial Acres Coins is a family business that has enjoyed buying and selling Canadian and international coins since 1991. Whether you are just getting started in numismatics, are expanding your collection, or are looking to sell or trade the coins you have, we are here to offer friendly advice. Stop by our Kitchener location, or contact us online, with any questions.