Why were there many changes to U.S. coins in the early 1980s?
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Mr. Smith Guesser   
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It seems that there were many changes to U.S. coins in the early 1980s. I focus on collecting Roosevelt dimes, so my knowledge of changes is limited. But among the changes to U.S. coins were:

  • The reintroduction of the P mintmark in 1980
  • The change in penny composition in 1982
  • A slight design change in the dime's torch flame from 1980 to 1981(seen below) ...the reverse lettering on the dime also seems thicker in 1981
  • Lack of mint sets in 1982 and 1983
  • The Denver mint packaging slightly changed color between 1980 and 1981 and the cellophane feels slightly thicker.
  • The Susan B. Anthony dollar was introduced in 1979, only to be discontinued in 1981 (until the reissue in 1999)

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It seems like the Treasury Department was tinkering with the coinage. What was going on? Are all of these changes related in some way?

 

Please add to the list of changes.

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BillJones   
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You questions go in several directions. Here are some answers off the top of my head.

 

The reintroduction of the P mintmark in 1980

 

That was a change in mint policy which required all coins, except the cents made in Philadelphia, to have a mint mark.

 

The change in penny composition in 1982

 

That was done because the price of copper had reached the point where is cost more than a cent to make a cent. I believe that melting cents was profitable for a while because of copper prices. It still costs more than cent to make a cent, but I think that is more due to production costs than the cost of zinc, which is 99% of the penny's metallic content.

 

A slight design change in the dime's torch flame from 1980 to 1981(seen below) ...the reverse lettering on the dime also seems thicker in 1981

 

Obviously that was a reworking of the master dies. In those years I think that the artists doing the work put more details into the designs, including the so-called "spaghetti hair" Washington Quarter.

 

Lack of mint sets in 1982 and 1983

 

Maybe the mint perceived a lack of demand. I know the quality of the coins in the mint sets in the mid to late 1970s were so bad that they were not worth buying.

 

The Denver mint packaging slightly changed color between 1980 and 1981 and the cellophane feels slightly thicker.

 

hm

 

The Susan B. Anthony dollar was introduced in 1979, only to be discontinued in 1981 (until the reissue in 1999)

 

The Suzie was the smaller replacement for the Ike Dollar (1973-8) which had bombed because it was too big and heavy in addition to the fact that people don't like dollar coins in general. The 1999 Suzie was issued due to "a crisis" that seemed to only known to the government. I never perceived a need for them.

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DaveG   
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Well, the early '80s was the "transition period" from the stagflation of the '70s and the economic revival of the mid-'80s and the change in administrations, from the of Jimmy Carter to the of Ronald Reagan.

 

There may have been a wave of new people at the mint and the Treasury department who either developed some new practices or encouraged the introduction of proposals that had been in the planning stages for the prior few years.

 

For example, perhaps mint sets were seen as "too much trouble" in the latter '70s, so a new person approved ending the product line in the beginning of the '80s.

 

If you're interested in doing some research, I'd suggest reading through Coin World from the period, I bet they covered changes in policy, etc.

 

 

edited to add: Wow. The forum software censored the names of the two major American political parties. I'm glad we don't spend a lot of time discussing the politics that affected the mints during the middle of the 19th century!

Edited by DaveG

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BillJones   
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edited to add: Wow. The forum software censored the names of the two major American political parties. I'm glad we don't spend a lot of time discussing the politics that affected the mints during the middle of the 19th century!

 

 

I collect political items including the presidential campaign tokens of the 19th and early 20th centuries. It get's to be a pain sometimes, but I use "Donkey Party" and "Elephant Party." At least it's okay to write "Whig" and "Federalist."

 

When you post ATS street you can't write "John Hancock" and "Alfred Hitchcock" because of the last four letters in the names. Talk about dirty minded censor!

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flaminio-migration   
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The Susan B. Anthony dollar was introduced in 1979, only to be discontinued in 1981 (until the reissue in 1999)

 

The Suzie was the smaller replacement for the Ike Dollar (1973-8) which had bombed because it was too big and heavy in addition to the fact that people don't like dollar coins in general. The 1999 Suzie was issued due to "a crisis" that seemed to only known to the government. I never perceived a need for them.

 

It's no great secret. Despite the lack of public support for SBA dollars, there was still some demand for them. Enough were made in 1979 (and to a lesser extent, 1980) that it fulfilled the demand for 20 years. In 1999 the government had run out, and the Sackies weren't yet ready, so they made more.

 

I still see them in circulation, usually dispensed from our local transit vending machines. If you put in $5 for a $2 ticket, would you rather get 3 dollar coins or 12 quarters as change?

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RWB   
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Following failure of the GM Coin Roller project, the mint struggled to find the most efficient way to produce coins. Eventually, they settled on Schuler horizontal presses and consistent use of rolled (coiled) metal stock. The goals were to reduce waste, eliminate as many unique internal processes as possible, increase production and improve internal business processes. Mintmark and product changes were part of this and most changes were never noticed by collectors since they involved production, not the final product.

 

Maybe someone out there will research and write about this period. The mint does not have a good grasp of what occurred and if a knowledgeable coin collector doesn't do it, much interesting information will be lost.

 

(PS: Not me....I am not interested and there is too much other stuff to do.)

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CaptHenway   
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When I worked for ANACS we got really good tours of the Denver Mint for the ANA SUmmer Seminar Students. In 1981 we were down in the basement in the Mint Set packaging area watching them make up sets with all the Denver coins plus the S-mint Susie B's.

 

I wandered off into an adjacent room that had a large steel tank with a lid on it in the center of the room, and over in the corner a small cement mixer. Next to the cement mixer were several 100-pound bags of dried crushed corn cob.

 

I asked our guide what they were for. He said that up in the coining area the workers routinely sprayed a light machine oil on the planchets so that they would feed into the presses smoothly. Because the oil eventually discolored the coins, they would remove it before packaging the coins.

 

THey would dump a bag of coins into a steel basket and shake it up and down in the tank, which contained a "de-oxy" compound I later found out was liquid freon. Then, to dry the coins, they would dump the coins from the wire basket into the cement mixer along with a few scoops of the dried crushed corncob and tumble them before packaging them.

 

That explained why the mint sets in the late 70's thru 1981 looked like heck. I wrote about this somewhere and the manure hit the rotary air circulation device. The Mint never admitted why they did it, but they did not issue Mint Sets in 1982 and 1983. WHen they resumed in 1984 the quality was much better.

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BillJones   
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... A wire basket and a cement mixer ...

 

And I thought that the mint sets coins were the pieces that fell on floor which then stepped on by guys wearing track shoes. Then they were swept up with wire brushes and dumped into riddler to separate them from the dirt. Who knew about the corn cobs? hm

 

The packaging was sloppy too. I got one set that had piece of string in the floppy plastic holder embedded with the coins.

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zoins   
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Don't forget the following on the NCLT side:

  • Reintroduction of regular commemoratives in 1982
  • Introduction of gold and silver bullion coins in 1986

Also, in 1981 Reagan brought in a new Mint Director, Donna Pope.

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RWB   
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"I got one set that had piece of string in the floppy plastic holder embedded with the coins."

 

Ah --- that was the "E Z Open Package" test.

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Conder101   
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The mint sets were dropped as a misguided government money saving measure. "Save the expense of packaging and selling coins which are basically the same thing you can get at the bank"

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Mr. Smith Guesser   
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I got one set that had piece of string in the floppy plastic holder embedded with the coins.

It's odd that you mention that. One of the 1980 dimes in the mint cellophane that I tried to photograph for the OP seems to have a wire indentation.

 

290q8as.jpg

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DWLange   
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One aspect of early 80s coinage not addressed is the flurry of new hubs for various denominations around that time. This was kicked off with the new cent obverse for 1969, but it really gained momentum in the 80s.

 

I believe these coincided in part with the conversion to high speed Schuler presses that Tom mentioned. For example, Lincoln's upper arm was hollowed out to lower its relief in 1984. This was seemingly done in response to the flatness of part of the Latin motto on the reverse. That feature was opposite Lincoln's arm, causing a conflict in the filling of these die cavities.

 

Another general change during the 80s and 90s was the reduction of the space occupied by design elements and legends. Everything was moved toward the center of the coin by making hub reductions of smaller scale. This is most noticeable on the dime and half dollar. The placing of peripheral elements too close to a coin's rims caused premature die erosion and failure.

 

As the master hubs themselves became worn, such elements actually spread toward the rims, as seen on the cents made during the years leading up to 1969.

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