Where is the mint mark on a half-dollar? As an avid coin collector or someone just inheriting a stash of old half dollar coins, you may be wondering about the tiny letters stamped near the bottom of the reverse (tails) side of the coin. These tiny letters actually indicate the U.S. Mint that produced the coin, which can impact the coin’s rarity and value to collectors.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: the mint mark on a half-dollar coin is located on the reverse side below the center near the rim. It is a small letter that signifies which U.S. Mint facility struck the coin.
In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about finding mint marks on half dollars. We’ll discuss the history of U.S. Mints and the mint marking system, where exactly you can find the mint letter on a half-dollar reverse, what the different mint letters indicate, and how the mint affects the value and collectability of your half-dollar coins.
History of U.S. Mints and Mint Marks
When U.S. Mints were Established
The history of mints and mint marks in the United States is fascinating. The first mint was established in Philadelphia in 1792 after the Coinage Act was passed. This laid the foundation for U.S. currency.
Two more prominent mints were later opened – one in San Francisco in 1854 to accommodate the California Gold Rush and another one in Denver in 1906 when the west was continuing to expand rapidly. Some other notable mints were also opened over the years, such as New Orleans in 1838, Carson City in 1870, West Point in 1937, and Washington D.C. in 1992.
What Mint Marks Represent
Mint marks are small letters printed on U.S. coins to indicate at which mint the coins were manufactured. Below are the mint marks that can be found on U.S. half-dollar coins and what each letter represents:
- P – Philadelphia
- D – Denver
- S – San Francisco
- O – New Orleans
- CC – Carson City
- W – West Point
For example, a 1968 half-dollar coin with a “D” mint mark was struck at the Denver Mint. Mint marks started appearing on U.S. coins in the mid to late 1800s and have continued since as a way of tracking the original.
All coins struck in Philadelphia (the first U.S. mint) originally did not carry a mint mark until 1980s when a “P” was added to match other coin mints.
Locating the Mint Mark on a Half Dollar
Half-dollar coins have an interesting history in the United States. They were first minted in 1794 and have been made in various compositions over the years. An important detail on all half dollars is the mint mark, which indicates where the coin was manufactured. Knowing how to locate this tiny letter on the coin can provide insight into its rarity and collectability.
Key Details on the Half Dollar Reverse Design
Looking at the reverse, or tails, side of a half dollar, you’ll notice a central image depicting an American eagle perched upon a shield. Around the border, the required inscriptions read “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “HALF DOLLAR,” and “E PLURIBUS UNUM” (meaning “Out of Many, One”).
This basic design has graced the back of half dollars for decades since being introduced in the early 1940s. Over the years, slight modifications have been made in elements like the eagle’s feathers or how arrow tips and olive branch details are rendered.
The fixed nature of the central imagery provides an ideal space for the mint mark on a half dollar. With little changing aesthetically over time, collectors quickly recognize where the mint letter should be stamped.
Where is the Mint Mark Placed on the Coin?
On all modern half-dollar coins since 1968, the mint mark is found stamped right below the eagle’s tail feathers, just above the “D” and “O” in “DOLLAR.”
This holds for half dollars marked with a small “D” for the Denver mint, “S” for San Francisco, or “W” for West Point releases.
|West Point (special issues)
On earlier half-dollar issues until 1964, the mint letter similarly appeared on the back design right next to the eagle’s tail.
Finding a small, distinct mint mark on a half dollar thus gives clarity on the coin’s exact production origin. This aids collectors in cataloging, set building, and assessing comparative rarity or special editions that may carry additional numismatic premiums.
Mint Marks Found on Half Dollars and What They Mean
Philadelphia (No Mint Mark)
The main branch of the United States Mint is located in Philadelphia. Up until 1980, coins minted here did not have a mint mark. This changed when the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin was released with a “P” mint mark to distinguish it from those struck at other mints.
But for half dollars minted before 1980 in Philadelphia, there is no mint mark to be found.
Denver (D Mint Mark)
The Denver Mint facility began operations in 1906 due to the need for coin production further west. Half dollars minted here will have a prominent “D” mint mark located on the obverse below the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST.”
San Francisco (S Mint Mark)
The San Francisco Mint opened in 1854 to serve the coinage needs of the West during the California Gold Rush era. Half dollars struck here feature the “S” mint mark below the motto, the same position as the Denver mint.
The 1916-S Walking Liberty half a dollar is widely considered the key date of the series, with a surviving population of just 4-5,000 coins according to the PCGS CoinFacts.
New Orleans (O Mint Mark)
The New Orleans mint operated from 1838-1909, and again from 1921-1942, before closing permanently. During its early years, the “O” mint on half dollars was positioned differently, either next to the date or below the eagle’s tail feathers on the reverse.
It wasn’t until 1840 that the mint mark was moved to its permanent position below the motto for all future New Orleans coinage. Notable half dollars from New Orleans include the 1892-O Barber halves.
West Point (W Mint Mark)
The West Point Mint produces commemorative coins and bullion coins only. According to the U.S. Mint, it does not produce coins for general circulation. The “W” mint mark can be found on special issue half dollars below the motto starting in the mid-1980s for pieces like the 1984-W Olympic commemorative.
More recently in 2021, a limited number of Kennedy half dollars featuring the “W” mint mark were struck to celebrate the coin’s 60th anniversary.
Carson City (CC Mint Mark)
The Carson City Mint holds an intriguing place in history, operating for less than 20 years from 1870-1885 and then again from 1889-1893. Located in Nevada, it served the coinage needs of the western part of the country.
The rarest CC mint marked half a dollar is the 1876-CC twenty-cent piece, with only 15 examples known to exist per PCGS. Carson City half dollars feature the distinctive “CC” mint mark located below the eagle’s tail feathers on the reverse.
How the Mint Impacts Half-Dollar Value and Collectability
The mint mark on a half-dollar coin indicates which US mint facility struck the coin. This small detail can have a significant impact on the coin’s value and collectability among numismatists and coin collectors.
Mint Marks and Rarity
Up until the 1970s, half dollars meant for circulation were minted at facilities in Philadelphia (no mint mark), Denver (D mint mark), and San Francisco (S mint mark). The San Francisco mint produced the fewest number of half-dollar coins, making coins with the S mint mark more rare and desirable to collectors.
For example, a 1954-S half-dollar had a mintage of only 2,698,240 compared to 12,596,000 1954 half-dollars from Philadelphia. The lower mintage for the San Francisco coin makes it considerably more valuable to collectors.
Mint Marks and Condition
The mint facility can also impact the condition and strike quality of a half dollar. Historically, the San Francisco Mint was known for producing coins with sharper strikes and more detailed designs. A coin in mint state condition from San Francisco will often be valued higher than a coin in a similar condition from Philadelphia or Denver.
So a mint state 1965 SMS Kennedy half a dollar, while having a high mintage, will likely fetch a stronger premium than a mint state 1965 Kennedy half from Philadelphia or Denver.
Key Date Coins
For many earlier half-dollar issues, like Seated Liberty or Walking Liberty, the mint marks indicate key dates that are more scarce and in high demand. An 1892-O, 1878-S, or 1916 half dollar is a classic example of a key date coin from New Orleans, San Francisco, or Denver (the 1916-D being the rarest early 20th century half).
While mint marks can impact value, authenticating the mint mark is critical as altered or counterfeit marks are common with key dates and higher-value coins.
Where Is The Mint Mark On A Half-Dollar – Conclusion
As you have learned, those tiny mint letters carry a lot of meaning when it comes to your half-dollar coins. Checking for a mint mark and identifying which Mint produced your coin is key to determining its rarity and value compared to other half-dollar issues.
Armed with the knowledge this guide has provided on the history, meaning, and location of mint marks on half dollars, as well as how the Mint impacts value, you can confidently examine your collection. Happy treasure hunting!
As you search through old half-dollars, you’ll be amazed at what you may uncover.