What is Limited Mintage?
Mintage refers to the total quantity of a coin struck. Limited mintage merely means the number of coins struck will be restricted in some way. It’s that simple. This number is different from a coin’s population, in that the population is the number of coins of that exact variety and condition, as determined by a third-party grading service.
Contemporary limited mintage coins are generally special collectible pieces, whether produced for numismatic or bullion value, and the numbers are precisely recorded. This is interesting because a caveat to the mintage number of certain historical numismatic coins is that record-keeping in the early days of the United States Mint was not an exact science.
The U.S. Mint began by recording the number of coins turned over to the Treasury Department, not the number of coins actually produced. Another consideration is that before new dies were implemented for each new year, the previous year’s coin dies were sometimes used until they naturally wore out or broke. This occasionally resulted in coins bearing an incorrect date, for instance, 1814 when in truth they were struck in 1815.
Finally, Proof coins struck especially for coin collectors were made on an as-needed basis. The U.S. Mint now carefully tracks the production of every Proof coin, but the early U.S. Mint Proof coins were neither tracked separately nor were they included in the mint’s final production numbers.
Mintage and Value
Mintage is a prime consideration when valuing a coin, though there are other important factors that influence value. Though the accuracy of early mintage records is debatable, they are the accepted starting point for determining the relative rarity of a coin. If a coin is low mintage, it will generally be scarce in all grades. If a coin sports high mintage, several details come into play when determining its value.
When coins are in general circulation, they become worn and get lost. This accounts for the natural reduction of the total number of coins available for coin collectors. Additionally, there have been moments in United States history when the Treasury Department has melted down coins from storage that were never released into circulation. While the mint may have kept records of the total number of coins recycled, no records are kept of the date and mintmarks of each individual coin. Therefore, the survival rate for a given coin type, date and mint mark are pure speculation. Nowadays, a limited mintage coin will be a special acquisition for a collector or investor and their survival rate is very high.