US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Dec. 27, 2021: Color and privy marks

A limited-edition 2022 Purple Heart silver dollar will become the next U.S. coin to feature a color element, after the 2020 National Basketball Hall of Fame coins. Nontraditional elements like added color and privy marks are becoming more traditional on U.S. coins.

Original images courtesy of the United States Mint.

Until a few years ago, the appearance of such special features as privy marks and colorized design elements on U.S. coins would have been considered unimaginable. Both design enhancements will find their way onto coins issued in the U.S. Mint’s two 2022 commemorative coin programs.

The Purple Heart Hall of Fame program will feature a silver dollar with a colorized design element, as we reported in our January monthly and illustrate this week in our follow-up news coverage. A silver dollar in the Negro Leagues Baseball program will bear a privy mark.

Mint customers will have the final say on whether such nontraditional design elements will continue to appear on future coin issues. My guess is that collectors will groan a bit, and then purchase the limited edition coins (or attempt to).

Proving the popularity of the first U.S. coins issued with a colorized design element, one finds in the Mint’s weekly sales reports evidence to show that colorized elements attract buyers. The 2020 National Basketball Hall of Fame commemorative coin program offered two colorized coins: a Proof silver dollar and a Proof copper-nickel clad half dollar.

The colorized half dollar outsold the regular version: 32,581 colorized coins to 26,572 plain coins. The colorized dollar, in contrast, underperformed when compared to the plain version: 25,719 colorized coins to 68,756 plain coins. That the colorized half dollar outsold the plain version is somewhat astounding, considering the level of grousing heard from the traditionalists among the Mint’s customer base when the Mint announced that it would sell the two colorized coins.

Privy-marked coins have also proved popular with collectors. The limited release circulating America the Beautiful quarter dollars struck at the West Point Mint, introduced in 2019, were further enhanced in 2020 when a privy mark celebrating the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II was added to the design. Numismatic products with coins bearing privy marks have also proven popular.

While one can legitimately criticize Mint officials for issuing too many products, they deserve kudos for experimenting with nontraditional elements that are commonplace on world coins.
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