United States Mints – Over 200 Years Strong 4


Ever look at a coin’s mint mark, that little one or two characters that appears on the obverse or reverse of a coin? Well, today I’d like to talk about where our US coins come from. Before 1792, there were various places inside and outside of America producing Colonial Coins. Many of them came from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont. Congress passed the Coinage Act of 1792 to have an official US mint. The mint would originally be part of the Department of State, but would become its own independent agency from 1799 – 1873, when the Department of Treasury would take it over. The US Mint’s headquarters are in Washington D.C., but no coins are minted there. Here is a list of past and current US mints.

Philadelphia

The first US mint was built in the United States capital at the time, Philadelphia in 1792. Starting with the 1792 Half Disme, the Philadelphia Mint would produce all the coinage for the young country. Philadelphia coins had no mint mark until the Jefferson Wartime Nickels between 1942 – 1945 with a “P” above Monticello. The “P” would not appear again until the 1979 Susan B Anthony coins first minted. In 1980, the “P” mint mark would be placed on all Philadelphia coins except the Lincoln cent. Philadelphia was the only mint to produce proof coins up to 1964.

Mint Mark Philadelphia

Charlotte

Gold was first discovered in the United States in 1799 at the Reed mine in North Carolina. Travelling to Philadelphia to bring the gold to the mint during the early 1800s was not an easy task. So, in 1835, Congress decided to build satellite mints in the south. The first one to open was in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1837. The first coin produced there was a $5 gold piece on March 28, 1838. It would also be the first time a mint mark would appear on a coin, a “C”.

The Charlotte mint would continue to produce gold coins until the Civil War broke out in 1861.

It was considered to be reopened but by 1873, Congress abandoned the idea. Since the end of the Civil War, the building has been occupied by an assay office, the Charlotte Women’s Club, a Red Cross station during World War I,  and finally in 1936, the Mint Museum of Art.

Mint Mark Charlotte

Dahlonega

Gold was discovered near Dahlonega, Georgia in 1829. Similar to Charlotte, the Dahlonega mint produced only gold coins from 1838 – 1861. Their coins would have a “D” mint mark.

After the Civil War, North Georgia College would use the building from 1873 until a fire destroyed it in 1878.

Mint Mark Dahlonega

New Orleans

The third Southern branch would open in New Orleans, LA in 1838. Unlike the other two branches, New Orleans would mint silver coins as well as gold. It would also close in 1861 but would reopen after the South’s Reconstruction period in 1879. By 1909, there was a railroad that went cross country and additional mints in Denver and San Francisco. So, the Treasury stopped minting
coins in New Orleans and was decommissioned 2 years later. New Orleans coins had an “O” mint mark.

After the mint closed it became a assay office, Coast Guard storage station and in 1981, the Louisiana Music Museum and Louisiana Historical Center.

Mint Mark New Orleans

San Francisco

With gold discovered in 1848 at Sutter’s Mill in California, San Francisco went from a small settlement into a city. With no intercontinental railroad, Americans from the East Coast would travel by boat and either go around South America or take the boat to Panama, walk across the isthmus, and take a boat from there.  Either case, San Francisco quickly became a major port in the West. The US mint would open a branch there in 1854 to turn the gold discovered into coins. The following year, they would start minting silver coins. Coins from San Francisco have the mint mark “S”. In 1968, San Francisco took over minting proof coins.

Mint Mark San Francisco

Carson City

The first silver mine was discovered in 1858 in Nevada. Known as the Comstock Lode, it would help build the cities of Reno and Carson City. In 1870, the Carson City mint opened, one year after the transcontinental railroad was completed.  Carson City would produce silver and gold coins until 1893 with the mint mark “CC”.

The Carson City mint has since become the Nevada State Museum and still houses the original coin press.

Mint Mark Carson City

Denver

By 1906, there were only three mints open, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and San Francisco. The US had a mint office in Denver since 1863, but no coins would be minted there until 1906. With the Dahlonega mint closed, Denver took over the “D” mint mark and would mint both silver and gold coins. Denver still mints circulated and uncirculated coins today.

Mint Mark Denver

West Point

The US mint building in West Point, NY was built in 1937 as the West Point Bullion Depository. Although known for holding silver, it would produce Lincoln Cents during the 1970s and 1980s without a mint mark. So, there no way of telling whether you had a penny from Philadelphia or West Point. The mint mark “W” would first appear on a $10 gold commemorative coin in 1983. In 1988, it became an official branch of the US Mint. Today, the mint mainly produces Bullion and special coins as well as being a gold bullion depository.

Mint Mark West Point

 Which mint marks have you seen?

You’ve probably seen coins from the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco mints, maybe even West Point. If you’ve collected coins for a while, you my have seen New Orleans and Carson City coins which were popular on Morgan Dollars and the Seated Liberty Coins. If you are lucky, you may see a gold coin from Charlotte or Dahlonega, but I only think I have only seen them at coin shows.


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4 thoughts on “United States Mints – Over 200 Years Strong

  • Matt's Mom

    This is crazy. I honestly did not know there were so many U.S. mints. I was aware of Denver, San Francisco and Philadelphia, but none of the others. I used to collect coins and believe it or not I never really paid attention the the two digit mint location. I will from now on just out of curiousity!

    • Kevin Post author

      I like looking for the older mint marks, like Carson City and New Orleans. The Carson City ones are harder to get. I have a dime from 1877 with a “CC”. Makes collecting more interesting.

  • David

    I’ve seen Philadelphia, NO, and SF but not the others. My dad collected coins and mint sets for years and I inherited them. Plus, I’ve always been one of those people that look at their change for older coins. I need to go through them now that I’ve read your article and know something about mint marks.
    Thanks for the article!

    • Kevin Post author

      I bet you have seen Denver coins as well. If you’re on the east coast like me, you don’t see them as often as Philadelphia, but I see them in change occasionally. That great that you’ve see New Orleans coins. Maybe someday you’ll find one from Carson City. Thanks for the reply!