Mintage – A Definition of Mintage

There's A Lot More to "Mintage" Than Just a Number

Blank coins that have been produced at the Royal Mint are sorted before being sent to be stamped in the coin press.
Coin Production At The Royal Mint. Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Definition

Mintage is the total quantity of a particular coin that the mint produced. However, early record-keeping at the United States Mint was not exact. Very early in the history of the mint, the number recorded was actually the number of coins turned over to the Treasury Department and not the number of coins actually produced.

Additionally, before the hubbing process was used to produce dies, coin dies from previous years were used to make coins until they broke or wore out.

This could have resulted in coins being counted as being minted in 1815, but actually carrying the date of 1814.

Finally, Proof coins that were made for coin collectors were made on an as-needed basis. Today proof coin production is tracked precisely, but early in the history of the US Mint Proof coins were not tracked separately nor were they added to the final production counts recorded at the mint. 

Mintage Effect on Value

Although mintage is a prime determinant of a coin's value, there are other factors that determine a coin's value. As stated above, the accuracy of early mintage records are suspect. However, this is a good basis for determining the relative rarity of a coin.

If the mintage of a particular coin is low, it will definitely be scarce in all grades. If the mintage is high, a number of factors come into play. If a coin was heavily hoarded when it was first released, the value in uncirculated grades might be lower than expected.

Conversely, if new coins were not heavily saved, the value may be higher than coins with a similar mintage.

Survival Rate

Given that total mintage for a particular type and date of coin is the beginning number of coins that can possibly survive, we know that not all coins produced will exist forever.

As coins circulate they wear out and are lost. This reduces the total number of coins that are available for coin collectors.

Also, there have been periods in the history of the United States where the Treasury Department has melted millions of coins that have been in storage and never released into circulation. The mint may have kept records of the total number of coins melted, but it did not keep track of the date and mint marks of the coins. Therefore, we can only speculate on the survival rate for a given coin type, date, and ​mint mark.

Export

Before the advent of international banks, goods were traded between countries using gold and silver coins as payment. Once these coins left the country many were melted for their bullion value. However, some did survive as foreigners used United States gold and silver coins as a method to accumulate wealth. With the advent of the Internet and international marketing, many rare coins are being purchased overseas and are returning to their country of origin.

Also Known As

Quantity, production quantity

Example Usage

The mintage of the 1909 – S V.D.B. Lincoln cent is very low and hence it is very valuable.