2017-P Cent Makes a Big Stir with Zero Marketing Dollars

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The P-mintmarked, 225th-anniversary cents will be dated 2017 only; the 2018 Philadelphia-minted cents will go back to having no mintmark. The Mint says the 2017-P cents will be available as Uncirculated coins, as well as the circulating versions.

What you’ve heard is true. Quietly, and all unannounced, the Mint has slipped pennies with the Philadelphia Mint’s “P” mintmark into circulation.

Now, if you’re up to date with your U.S. penny history, you can skip to the next paragraph. If not, try this: Pick up a copy of the Red Book—doesn’t matter what edition—and flip to the beginning of the section on small cents. First page: Flying Eagles. Skim down the left column: 1856, 1857, 1858. See any coins with the P mintmark? No? Flip to the Indian Head cents: 1859, 1860, 1861—nope, still no letter P. Turn every page to the end of the denomination, and you won’t find a single penny with a P mintmark. Flip back to the large cents; you won’t find any there, either.

In other words, the only P-mintmarked cents in the U.S. Mint’s 225-year history have emerged in total secrecy. Released to banks in early January, the coins went unnoticed until a collector named Terry Granstaff found one in change on January 13 and posted it to a PCGS discussion board. Coin World was able to confirm the authenticity of the 2017-P coin soon afterward and brought the story to light.

The stated reasons for mintmarking the 2017 cents were that (1) the move is one of several planned events during the Mint’s 225th-anniversary celebrations, and that (2) it calls attention to the pride and hard work of the staff at the Philadelphia Mint. Perfectly legitimate reasons. As to why they kept it secret, Tom Jurkowsky, director of the Mint’s Office of Corporate Communication, told Coin World that the Mint wanted to see how long it would take the public to notice and bring the coins to the Mint’s attention. Again, that seems reasonable—and what better (and cheaper) way to stir up excitement about the anniversary program as a whole?

But when you compare the cent and the American Liberty gold coin, the extreme contrast between the two suggests there’s more to this than a bit of quasquibicentennial hijinks.

Consider the context. The Mint has been criticized for years for being, or at least appearing to be, out of touch with everyday collectors. Moreover, there’s a growing feeling in numismatics that the tail has begun to wag the dog. At the birth of the hobby, people studied and collected coins that were struck by the Mint in the course of its everyday business; today, collectors spend a lot of time and money pursuing Mint products that exist only for the purpose of being collected. Not that a healthy retail market for specially created coins is a bad thing—or that the Mint is to blame for changes in the culture or the economy. But (1) the situation exists, (2) collectors don’t like it, and (3) when collectors perceive that the Mint is glad to take their money but deaf to their concerns, it makes them angry.

The 2017 American Liberty high-relief gold coin is exactly the kind of high-ticket offering that elicits both cheers and groans from collectors. A penny from your pocket change, on the other hand, is literally the single cheapest U.S. Mint product in existence. The former is a catalog item with potential investor value; the latter is a nod to the hobbyist who collects for enjoyment. Quietly timing the release of the one amid the hoopla surrounding the other, aside from being a shrewd marketing tactic, has the feeling of making a statement. As if someone at the Mint might be saying, “We get it. And we’re trying.”

If so, collectors have reason to celebrate, and to be happy it’s only January. With hints at other surprises to come from the Mint as the anniversary celebrations roll along, this could be an interesting year for modern U.S. numismatics.  ❑


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Comments

  1. Dante says

    I like it!

    Neat. Easy. Cheap. And Fun.

    Never forget the fun, that’s the key.

    Thanks, US Mint folks!

  2. Teach says

    Thank Diana for a new column without 450 comments to wade through. I like that the mint was being sneaky and fun. I am surprised a secret like this with so many people working at the P mint that no one leaked it. Bravo to them!

  3. KEITHSTER says

    Is the Mint going to sell rolls at 2x face and free shipping don’t think so! But just maybe they can get them to all banks so we have an equal shot at them ? Should be fun to see that little p ! Going to bite on some lions Good Luck All “>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>”>

  4. Louis Golino, Author says

    Larry- The set was announced last year at the forum the Mint held in Philly, and I have discussed it several times in articles, including the one I did for Coin Update. It also goes with the HR gold, that as I said, is enhanced proof, though so far I am the only one to call it that.

    And for 2018 there will be a reverse proof set.

  5. Mattarch says

    Since the Mint is changing a 100+ year standard will there be Lincoln Cents with no mint mark as an error coin? That will be fun to watch for in my change.

  6. Louis Golino, Author says

    I like the pennies, and I heard it is a one-year deal, so maybe worth grabbing a roll or two, but then the issue is how to store them so they don’t change color. Nice way to get kids interested too, or do they not even care?

  7. So Krates says

    “And for 2018 there will be a reverse proof set.”

    Hmm, where I have I heard that before?

  8. Jerry Diekmann says

    Great idea! And along with the “P” cent, let’s finally get Alexander Hamilton on a coin – any coin! He was the first Director of the Treasury and designed our decimal system of coinage which has been with us now for 225 years. Any maybe even honor David Rittenhouse, who was the first Director of the Mint. I am sure that Q. David Bowers would echo that sentiment, as he was one of the founders of the Rittenhouse Society, coin collectors who are also interested in numismatic research and communicating their knowledge with the rest of us. Both of these men should be recognized on coins, not medals, so the general public has a chance to see them and learn about their contributions to our coinage system.

  9. Jerry Diekmann says

    Louis – Maybe the Mint could make a special set of these cents with the same composition that was used in 1792, like they did for Lincoln’s bicentennial in 2009.

  10. So Krates says

    Meeting Aug. 7 with Coin World at the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont, Ill., (J. Marc) Landry said each of the coins in the 2015 Reverse Proof set would exhibit mirrored design devices against a frosted background. Regular Proof coins exhibit frosted devices against mirrored fields.

    Whether the coins in the 14-coin Reverse Proof set will all be base metal or will include .900 fine silver versions of the Roosevelt dime, the five America the Beautiful quarter dollars and the Kennedy half dollar has not been decided. However, U.S. Mint Deputy Director Richard A. Peterson said that if just one set is issued, he would prefer the Reverse Proof set to include the silver versions of the dime, quarter dollar and half dollar rather than the copper-nickel clad versions.

    The Reverse Proof sets would also include Reverse Proof versions of the copper-plated zinc Lincoln cent, copper-nickel Jefferson 5-cent coin, and the four 2015 Presidential dollars and single 2015 Native American dollar, all in their manganese-brass clad composition.

    The coins for the planned sets will be struck at the San Francisco Mint and bear the production facility’s S Mint mark. – Coin World 2.5 years ago

  11. Tinto says

    In terms of EU and RP coins, aside from the NA $1 C&C sets, I’m just gonna be buying enough to make a type set of silver and base metal .. no gold, no platinum, no palladium (if it ever gets coined …) .. enough for me ..

  12. gary says

    @Mattarch…You said “Since the Mint is changing a 100+ year standard will there be Lincoln Cents with no mint mark as an error coin? That will be fun to watch for in my change.”

    The chance of finding a 2017 no “P” mintmark cent is virtually zero.
    I believe the 2017 Lincoln obverse master hub already contains the P mint mark so that ALL of the working dies made from it will contain the P mintmark in a consistent letter size & position.

  13. data dave says

    This is a good first step. Now I think they should release all of the unsold S mint quarters from the past 5 years into circulation. Changing things up on the circulation coin side of things is a cheap and easy way to start to develop a little interest in what is going on at the mint. They could even make a brief run of 2M pennies at the SF mint and mixed them into their shipments.

  14. merryxmasmrscrooge says

    2017-P mintmark cent is a good idea. Good to be able to look for interesting coins in change.
    We the bottom 1% really appreciate this.

  15. data dave says

    A connection between collecting circulating coins and cagcrisp “strong hands” theory came to mind when I was thinking about the 2009-P nickel. There were 40M made that year a fairly large amount but the price on ebay is still over $40 per roll. I have found maybe 20 of these in circulation, but I would have thought the price should be lower. I guess they are all in “strong hands”.

  16. says

    As a fan of the lowly cent, I applaud the message sent
    For after all, what is a dollar, but a hundred cents
    Do away with it they cry, oh how the simpleminded try

  17. Ben There says

    I think this is a good idea. Certainly better than the hideously PC Liberty coin. What will happen now is that we will begin seeing slabbed 2017-P pennies in Coin World and on ebay for insane prices. They will probably appear on those 30 minute “coin collecting” shows on cable TV as well. But the article is spot on about the plethora of commems issued by the Mint. We can at least be thankful that the Mint hasn’t gone over the deep end like the Royal Canadian Mint though. When you see Bugs, Daffy, Superman and glow in the dark “coins” being sold at stupid premiums, then you know a mint has sold out.

  18. data dave says

    @Larry – Nothing exciting but if you want one of those items to complete your collection it is good to know what is coming up so you can combine shipping. For us mint junkies, combining shipments lets us buy even more.

  19. says

    For in their quest to save waste, their foolishness makes haste
    For little do they know, that with the lowly cent’s demise, there comes dollar’s death throes.

    Simpleminded is, as simpleminded does.

  20. cagcrisp says

    Gold AM Fix $1,203.35

    Gold PM Fix $1,196.05

    The tweets about the USD continue.

    (Current USD Index Up .56%)…

  21. Throckmorton says

    They could have slipped Flying Eagle cents with a 2017 date into circulation. Probably requires legislation though.

    What fun that would be to have old designs on base metal coinage show up over the course of the year!

  22. earthling says

    Now to really pump up the volume , the Mint could release about 225,000 Lincolns without the P – Mintmark. Unannounced and totally by accident of course.

    Just a bit to spark a treasure hunt.

  23. DBR says

    I looked at my 2009 Commemorative Lincoln cents in the Lincoln Coins & Chronicles Set. They are beautiful and red red red.

    I’m glad they introduced this 2017-P cent. Fun!

    For those of you who purchased your 2017 ATB clad Quarters Proof Set. Take a very close look at the coins’ finish. It seems like an “enhanced”proof finish. I thought they looked extra sharp on the obverse details. I placed the 2017 Proof quarter set side by side with the 2015 and 2016 set and with the naked eye could tell the 2017 Proof quarters are different (as in better) with sharper details especially to Washington’s face and hair. Check it out!

    Maybe I got a great 2017 set but I think the Proof finish is higher quality and perhaps laser-etched. I’m speculating on that last point but to me the proof clad quarters look better in 2017.

  24. Mercury says

    For all those looking for a way out…it would seems to me that this 225th anniversary is a fitting occasion for all those out there who’s had enough to break free of the US Mint circustry. Make 2017 the year you freed your mind of all the noise. Life is too short. You’ve earned it. It’s time to relax and start spending time with and not things for the grandkids. Happy New Year.

  25. Thelonghaul says

    I have been following this thread for a while now and I must say its been a pleasure. I have got my 4 year old into collecting and were ready to grab a few rolls of pennies this week! Thanks for always keeping us updated on one of our passions ladies and gentleman!

  26. Mike the Greek says

    @longarm – Wordsworth would have found your words worth a chuckle. It’s good to see a poet who didn’t know it. 😀

  27. Ken bond says

    I dont get it! So…. The mint is putting a “P” mint mark on “ALL” 2017 Philly cents. Circulated & Uncirculated. I could see this being a BIG deal, if it was not all of them! And they would only mint like 200,000 and slip them in randomly! There is gonna be like Billions of these! Pointless.

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