US Coins: Anatomy & Basics

Anatomy of a US Coin

The front of a coin is called the Obverse while the back of the coin is called the Reverse. The central image or portrait bust is called the Relief. The raised portion of the Edge is called the Rim. This is the part that goes around the outer circumfrence of the coin,

The most important identifying mark on a coins is the Mint Mark. Mint marks are located in different parts of different coins. This mark is important because each mint produces a varying amount or variety of each coin type. The lower the production number, the higher the value of the coin. Coins of a low minting or production number are called Key Dates. Key Date coins have a higher value due to their scarcity. Mints and their marks include “P” for Philadelphia, “D” for Denver and “S” for San Francisco. There was also a Mint in Carson City, Nevada that is now inactive and has been since 1893. Coins minted in Carson City are marked “CC” and are more scarce than coins from any other Mint.

Mint Marks and Where They are Located



Silver US Coins

Certain US coins were composed of silver with a composition of .900 silver. These coins listed below were minted with silver PRIOR to 1964. AFTER 1964, US coins, minted for regular circulation, were no longer minted with silver.

  • Dimes
  • Trimes
  • Half Dimes
  • Half Dollars
  • Dollars
  • Quarters
  • War-time Jefferson Nickels (1942-1945)