On the Lookout for Repunched Mint Marks

By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
The Signal
Saturday, December 31, 2005

int marks were first added to our coinage in the 1830s. The mint mark — initially "O" for New Orleans, "D" for Dahlonega and "C" for Charlotte; later "S" for San Francisco, "CC" for Carson City, "D" for Denver and "P" for Philadelphia — was tooled into the working dies by hand at the Philadelphia Mint.
    In a few cases, the mint mark was applied more than once, resulting in a "repunched mint mark" or "RPM," and sometimes resulting in a doubled or even tripled mint mark.
    No serious study of these varieties was conducted until the early 1980s when a small book was published by John Wexler, called "The RPM Book."
    Since 1990, the mint mark has been applied directly to the hubs that make the dies, eliminating the hand-punch process that resulted in RPMs.
    In the Lincoln cent series, which I have studied for decades, the number of RPMs is rather large — although most are quite common and of little value.
    The very first year of Lincoln cent production, 1909, saw an RPM known as "S over horizontal S." In this case, the first "S" was punched at a 90-degree angle, leaving it horizontal to the date. A second "S," vertical this time, was punched over the first "S." This variety is not much scarcer than the standard 1909-S cent, since apparently quite a few were released. It was not discovered until the mid-1970s, and at the time, not much attention was paid to it as a variety worthy of collecting.
    In 1910, two RPMs with the "S" mint mark are known. These are fairly scarce and worth a premium over comparably graded 1910-S cents. Then, for most of the following years, one or more RPMs have been discovered. In fact, the new edition of "The RPM Book" by John Wiles lists dozens of RPMs not known or published in the previous edition.
    In 1944, a very unusual repunched mint mark variety was produced. It was not discovered until many years later. It was a "D" punched over an "S." In fact, there are two separate varieties of this "D over S," called an "overmint mark" or "OMM." Today this variety is valued in the hundreds of dollars in high grades, and even $50 to $100 in circulated grades. The variety in which the "S" is partially visible above the "D" is the scarcer of the two. The second variety shows part of the "S" inside the "D" and to the left.
    Since then, a few more OMMs have been discovered. The best known is the 1956-D over S. What makes this coin unusual is that no cents were minted in San Francisco in 1956 — which makes it hard to account for an "S" mint mark being used that year on cents.
    One of the more recent discoveries of an OMM is the 1911 OMM. It was originally listed as an RPM (D over D). However, recent close-up photography shows that the undermint mark is actually an "S."
    Perhaps the most common RPMs are those minted in Denver in 1960 and 1961. In fact, one could expect to find one or more of these variants while scanning a few dozen coins of either date — 1960-D or 1961-D. To date, more than 100 different RPMs are listed for these two dates alone. The most popular and perhaps the most valued RPM is the 1961-D over horizontal "D" — only the second case where the two mint marks are rotated 90 degrees.
    A few cases of RPMs include tripled mint marks. The most popular, and perhaps first one found, is the 1938-S RPM-tripled-S. At one time, uncirculated specimens of this RPM sold for more than $100. Today, they can be found for much less, but they are still scarce.
    Another tripled "S" can be found, rarely, in the 1955-S cent. In mint condition, these coins bring $25 to $50. As collectors become more tuned in to the likelihood of finding these coins in otherwise unsearched rolls, collections, or even dealers' stock, prices will continue to rise for the scarce and rare RPMs and OMMs.
    Among the more recent discoveries are the 1956-D's known as "RPM No. 8," in which the first "D" is barely visible entirely below the "D" mint mark; and the 1956-D in which a vague "S" appears to the left of the mint mark. Both varieties are worth into the hundreds of dollars in mint condition. Both were discovered only in the past 10 years or so.
    RPMs are also known in nearly every other United States coinage series.
    All a collector needs is a good magnifier (10x or better), a guide book such as "The RPM Book," and a lot of coins to look at.
    I have been doing that since the 1930s and have not only found many RPMs, but even discovered a few that were not previously known. Happy hunting.

    Dr. Sol Taylor of Sherman Oaks is president of the Society of Lincoln Cent Collectors and author of The Standard Guide to the Lincoln Cent. Click here for ordering information.