US Coins

Mint mark positions

The “errant” Mint mark on a 1975-D Jefferson 5-cent coin, left, published in the Dec. 24, 2012, “Reader’s Ask,” and those on another 1975-D coin and a 1973-D piece, illustrate some possible variations of Mint mark placement in the past.

Images courtesy of Mike Diamond.

While looking through the Dec. 24, 2012, issue of Coin World, I came across “Case of the moving Mint mark” illustrated by three different Mint mark locations on some common-date Jefferson 5-cent coins, shown above.

I was particularly intrigued by the one with the D way out of normal placement and squeezed between the 5 and the back of Jefferson’s portrait. Seeking to learn more I went on the Internet and soon made contact with the provider of the pictures, Mike Diamond. I was quite excited about the “errant” Mint mark, probably more than Mike was.

I asked about the rarity of the variety, and Mike said he had two, both bought on eBay. He offered me one, and after about three seconds of consideration I bought it for $25. Not that $25 is a lot of money these days. It will not even buy room service breakfast in an upscale New York City hotel. But, in the current A Guide Book of United States Coins, a Mint State 1975-D 5-cent coin is valued at 25 cents. I paid 100 times that figure!

Should I worry? The risk is, of course, that in the hands of other Coin World readers there might be 100,001 more of them, and the variety is really common. However, I did note that the mintage of the 1975-D 5-cent coin is 410,875,300. This is more than one coin for every man, woman, and child living in the United States of America.

Another risk: an inherent danger exists in owning this coin.

As of 2007 it is a criminal offense to melt or export a cent or a 5-cent coin, punishable with a fine up to $10,000 and up to five years in prison. This means that after it arrives, I must keep my 5-cent coin away from intense heat, and if per chance I take a motor trip to Canada (about four hours away), I must be sure I do not take it with me!

As to more serious matters, I don’t know the average life of a 5-cent coin obverse die in 1975, but supposing it was a million coins, this might mean that the “errant Mint mark 1975-D” 5-cent coin (to give it a name) is about 400 times less common than the others. Mike Diamond in his email suggested that the die might have been noticed by a press operator and taken out of service. Hmmmm. What if only 10,000 were struck? Then my $25 investment is secure!

I will stay tuned, to see if more information comes to light.

Q. David Bowers is chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries and numismatic director of Whitman Publishing LLC. He can be reached at his private email,, or at Q. David Bowers LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.

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