David E. writes: I recently purchased an 1881-S $5 gold piece. I have since discovered it to be an S/O mintmark, as described in the Breen encyclopedia. I have been unable to find any more information on this coin, or its value. Breen lists it as rare. Can you provide more insight on this coin?
This interesting repunched mint mark was discovered by dealer Jay Miller in 1982 and is a curiosity as well as rare. The dies for coins were manufactured in Philadelphia and distributed to the branch mints. The punch for that mint was located at the branch mint whose workmen would stamp the mint mark into the dies by hand. It seems that a New Orleans punched die found its way to the San Francisco Mint and the “S” mint was stamped over the “O”. Possibly San Francisco needed another die and New Orleans had and extra one. Dies were very expensive to make. I am only speculating but it seems to be a plausible story.
You will have to place the coin in a prominent auction to determine what the current market is for this rare coin.