Last Updated on February 18, 2021 Posted by Colonial Acres Coins
If you look carefully at Canadian coin rolls, you may notice that individual coins bear marks that don’t seem to have an obvious meaning. Sometimes the coins bear the initials of the artist who created the design. You may notice that certain pennies bear the letter “P” just beneath the Queen’s portrait on the obverse side. What does this mean? Does the marking affect the value? Are these coins prized by collectors?
As with many seemingly mysterious occurrences, the letter “P” on the penny has a mundane explanation. Nevertheless, it offers some fascinating insights into coin minting and distribution.
When Did the “P” First Appear?
Canadian pennies marked with the letter “P” first entered circulation in 2001. The mark denoted coins made from a new composition. In the past, pennies had been made primarily of copper. However, this method of production was environmentally unfriendly because it involved cyanide. Seeking a more eco-friendly method, the Royal Canadian Mint began striking copper-plated pennies with a core of steel starting in 2001 and marked them with the letter “P” to identify them. These coins had the added advantages of being more durable and lightweight than before.
Because the new coins were more lightweight, existing vending machines and transit authorities would be more likely to reject them. So that organizations could modify their machines to accept the new plated coins, the RCM struck a series of test coins using the new process in 1999 and 2000.
What Does the “P” Stand For?
It’s not entirely clear what, specifically, the “P” stands for. One explanation, which is considered the most plausible, is that “P” stands for “plated” and was used by the RCM to identify coins made with the new process. Another, less accepted explanation is that the mark was included at the request of the vending machine companies so they would have a way to differentiate the new coins from existing copper pennies.
Does the “P” Affect the Value?
By itself, the “P” on the penny does not add value, and generally speaking, those pennies with the mark are not worth more than those without. However, the test tokens that were produced in 1999 and 2000 are more valuable because of their rarity. These coins were never intended to enter circulation, which adds to their value to collectors. There are more of the 1999 test tokens on the collectors’ market than the 2000 minting.
Are There Other Coins That Bear the Mark?
While Canadian $1 and $2 coins still use the same composition, the Royal Canadian Mint has used the new plating method to produce coins of lower denominations since 2001. In addition to pennies, these include five-cent pieces and 25-cent pieces. The fact that quarters and nickels with a steel core also receive the “P” marking supports the theory that it stands for “plated” and not for something like “new penny,” as the other theory suggests.
In the year 2000, the RCM had to strike an emergency supply of new plated nickels to address a shortage in Quebec and Alberta. Due to the circumstances surrounding their minting, these 2000P nickels may be of interest to collectors, and there are approximately two million of them still in circulation.
What Is the Status of the One-Cent P Coins Today?
Eventually, when the plated steel coins became the norm, it was no longer necessary to mark them with the letter “P” for purposes of differentiation. The RCM discontinued the mark in 2006, but many of those coins are still in circulation.
Canadian Coin Rolls at Colonial Acres
Because of the insight that they offer into coin manufacturing and production, one-cent P coins would be a great addition to any collection. You can find rolls of these distinctive coins and other collectible Canadian pennies for sale at Colonial Acres.