Mintmarks, Privymarks and Counterstamps. What is the difference?

November 6, 2008

Aluminium bronze one dollar coins issued by the Royal Australian Mint from 1993 began to feature a mintmark. Initially the mintmark was a letter C, S or M and later B, E, A, and TV mint marks appeared. Initially the mintmarks represented a capital city of Australian but the later E and TV mintmarks were simple marketing exercises. Mint mark dollars were either minted on the coin presses at the mint in Canberra, or had the mint mark applied on a smaller portable press at various coin shows and events around the country. At this point the coin collector with a nose for history will realise that the coins minted with a mint mark in Canberra were not using the term 'mint mark' correctly, after all a mint mark is supposed to represent where a coin is minted. So a B (representing Brisbane) mint mark coin minted in Canberra is really mis-using the term mint mark for that coin. However, a B mint mark coin having the mint mark applied on a portable coin press at a coin show in Brisbane is closer to the original idea of what a mint mark was to represent. However, even this is not a true mint mark as the mark is just being applied in Brisbane, the coin itself was minted in Canberra.

Because of this confusion and with the ever increasing popularity of the mintmark series, 2008 brought rise to a new series of marks to identify coins and locations. I'll try to outline these new terms and their definitions. The Royal Australian Mint is now releasing aluminium bronze dollars with mint marks, with privy marks, and with counter stamps.

The mintmark will continue to be used by the mint but it will be a mark on the original die that denotes the actual location where the coin was struck. Most commonly this mint mark is a raised letter on the coin with no surround.

The privy mark was first used on the British coinage of King Edward III. These were secret marks showing the period in which the coin was struck. Adapted for today's coinage the privy mark today signifies specific sets, designers, special events or commemoratives. The one dollars produced by the RAM with dies that have been modified with a letter or symbol are now referred to as privy marks. These are a letter or symbol with a square surround. This does not denote being struck at any particular location.

The counterstamp is a mark on a coin that has already been struck with it's design. Previously also referred to as "countermarks" these were used throughout history. The first fleet (which arrived in Australian in 1788) arrived with many world coins which were countermarked. The aluminium bronze dollars are struck at the mint and then counterstamped later at various shows and fairs around the country. These are identified by letters with a circular surround.

I hope that helps to clarify what is initially a confusing set of terms and marks on the collector dollar coins in Australia.

We've written an updated article with images for further reading: Identifying One Dollar Mintmarks, Privy Marks and Counterstamps

Posted by harrisk at November 6, 2008 6:43 PM
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