Bullion coins are very purposefully struck without Mint marks. The
simple explanation for this is that bullion coins are meant to be
bought and sold based on the intrinsic metal value, not as numismatic
collectibles, so a Mint mark isn’t strictly necessary.
Since the U.S. Mint is not a precious metals dealer, it can’t sell
bullion coins to the public. Instead, it produces bullion coins and
then distributes them through a network of “Authorized Purchasers.”
But the Mint can sell collectibles. Since the beginning of American
Eagle coinage in 1986, the Mint has sold Proof issues directly to
collectors. To distinguish these numismatic collectibles, they are
given Mint marks. In 2006, when Uncirculated versions for direct sale
to collectors were introduced, they too had Mint marks.
Of course, the absence of Mint marks has another benefit. It allows
the Mint to shift production from one facility to another without
causing any supply disruptions because the coins themselves are
identical. For example, from 2011 to 2014, American Eagle silver
bullion coins were made at the San Francisco and West Point Mints.
Only their exterior packaging made them distinguishable from one
another. For this year, the Philadelphia Mint struck American Eagle
silver bullion coins for the first time, but they were distributed in
West Point Mint packaging alongside West Point Mint coins, with no
Despite the intentions of the U.S. Mint, two American Eagle bullion
coins do have W Mint marks. They were produced by mistake!
In 1999, a small number of tenth-ounce and quarter-ounce gold American Eagle bullion coins
were struck at the West Point Mint with W Mint marks. They were
inadvertently struck using dies intended for the production of Proof
coinage, which therefore had a Mint mark. The dies were never polished
and were used to strike the bullion coins instead. The coins were
distributed as bullion coins in tubes alongside regular non-Mint
Their exact mintage is unknown, but it is estimated that 14,500 of
these American Eagle tenth-ounce gold coins were coined, and about
6,000 examples of the quarter-ounce coin.
While a number of coins are struck with inadvertently omitted Mint
marks, these coins are the only varieties to include one accidentally.
They are very popular with collectors today and widely collected as a
standard component of the gold American Eagle series.
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