Dr. Sol Taylor

1922: A Very Weak Year

By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
Saturday, January 26, 2008

he year 1922 was unusual in the sense that no nickels, dimes, quarters or half dollars were minted. And no cents were minted in Philadelphia for the first time since 1815.
    What caused this shift in coinage? Under earlier legislation known as the Pittman Act, the Mint was required to produce a large number of new silver dollars. This put a strain on the personnel and equipment at the three operating mints: Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco. Just to meet these production levels — 51.7 million from Philadelphia, 15.1 million from Denver and 17.4 million from San Francisco — there was little time and machinery available for anything else. Well, almost anything. Today these 1922 Peace dollars are just about the most common silver dollars available and except in mint condition have little value above their silver content.
    The Denver mint struck 7.1 million one-cent coins, a fairly small number compared to other years.
    In that number a very few were struck without the mintmark. This 1922 "P" or actually "no D" variety can be worth tens of thousands of dollars in mint condition, and even well-used specimens bring several hundred dollars.
    It is generally believed that the die for the "No D" cent was made in Philadelphia and shipped to Denver. Before being put into use, someone was supposed to punch a "D" into the die.
    It is believed only one such obverse die exists, mated to the same reverse die. This variety, known as "Variety 2" to most collectors, has distinguishing features that separate it from the two lesser-valued varieties. The lesser valued varieties, known as "weak D," have a barely discernable "D." No cents were minted in San Francisco or Philadelphia that year.
    Oddly enough, a fairly large number of $20 gold pieces were minted that year — while none of the other gold denominations was issued in 1922. There were 1.375 million minted at Philadelphia and 2.65 million minted at San Francisco. None was minted in Denver in 1922. The 1922 (P) and 1922-S $20 gold coins are relatively common as $20 gold coins go.
    The other coins minted in 1922 were the Ulysses S. Grant commemorative half dollar and $1 gold piece. The two half dollars, with and without the impressed star, total 71,000 pieces, while the gold coins (with and without the star) total just over 10,000.
    Chances are, both denominations were produced in a single day or two. The Philadelphia mint also produced 3.5 million one-centavo coins for the Philippines, which was a U.S. territory at the time.
    Thus 1922 stands alone as the lowest coinage production year in the 20th Century.

    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.