Posted on May 25, 2017
On April 2, 1792, a fledgling nation took its first bold and official steps toward a then-unknown future with passage of the Coinage Act of 1792. In addition to creating the United States dollar as the official standard unit of money for America, the act regulated coinage in the United States and established the United States Mint system.
Throughout 2017, the United States Mint is rolling out a series of 24-karat gold coins and various other commemorative products to mark the 225th Anniversary of the world’s largest minting operation. What started as a singular operation inside of “Ye Olde Mint” in the city of Philadelphia, then the national capital, has grown to become the one of the foremost minting systems in the world.
As the nation and the mint celebrate 225 years of history, it’s worth looking back at where the mint started and how it has grown over the course of two-and-a-quarter centuries. Read on to learn about the US Mint, then and now, as well as its keystone commemorative coin series for the anniversary.
The first mint building in the US Mint system was constructed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Although the modern US Mint facility in Philadelphia remains an important national facility, the original building was significant in its day because it was the first building of the Republic raised under the newly signed Constitution of the United States of America.
Today, the United States Mint consists of a headquarters building in Washington DC (non-coining operation), mint facilities in Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, and West Point, and the gold bullion depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky. However, over the course of time the mint has grown and contracted for various reasons.
During the 1830s a vein of gold was discovered in the American Southeast, prompting the US Mint to expand from its “Ye Olde Mint” location in Philadelphia for the first time ever. Two facilities were opened along the Atlantic Coast in the American Southeast. The Charlotte Mint in North Carolina and the Dahlonega Mint in Georgia both operated from 1838 until 1861.
These two mint locations were opened specifically to facilitate the conversion of local gold deposits into coinage for the young nation, and minted only gold coins as a result. The onset of the US Civil War lead to the permanent closure of facilities.
During this same period the US Mint opened a coining facility in New Orleans, Louisiana. The New Orleans Mint building did not open to take advantage of any particular local silver or gold resource, but more to facilitate the dispersal of American coinage throughout the growing American South. The New Orleans Mint did close for a period of time stretching from the start of the Civil War in 1861 until the end of Reconstruction following the war, in 1879.
The New Orleans Mint produced both gold and silver coinage for the US in eleven different denominations, and was open until 1909 when it was permanently shutdown.
As the nation grew to the west, so too did the United States Mint. The Carson City Mint in Nevada opened in 1870, and like the Charlotte and Dahlonega Mints it was opened to take advantage of local precious metal deposits. In this case, it was a rich vein of silver discovered in the Southwest that led to the development of the Carson City Mint. This coining operation was up and running from 1870 until 1893, with a three-year hiatus occurring from 1886 to 1888.
There’s also the curious case of the branch location in The Dalles, Oregon. Commissioned in 1864, construction on this second western coining operation was halted in 1870. Though the building still stands today, it never produced any coins for the United States.
In 1920, the United States Mint opened a mint location in Manila, Philippines. At the time the Philippines was a US colony, and the Manila Mint was established to produce coinage for the colony. It struck coins in one, five, ten, twenty, and fifty centavo denominations. The mint location was the first and only US Mint operation constructed outside of the continental United States, and operated from 1920 to 1922, and again from 1925 to 1941.
Current US Mint Facilities
The Philadelphia Mint is the oldest and most prestigious coining facility in the mint system. Although it is now in its fourth physical location, the Philadelphia Mint opened in 1792 and began operations in 1793. Today it is the US Mint’s largest facility, is the site of master die production for all US coinage, and is home to the engraving and design departments of the US Mint.
The San Francisco Mint first opened as a US Mint branch location in 1854 to serve as a processing center for all the gold extracted during the California Gold Rush. The mint facility there outgrew its original building by 1874, and existed in its second home through the great earthquake and fire of 1906, before closing in 1937. The present facility of the San Francisco Mint opened that same year, closed for a nearly a decade from 1955 to the mid-1960s, and since 1968 has played a large role in proof coinage production.
The Denver Mint opened in 1863 as a local assay office for the United States Mint. At the turn of the 20th century, the Denver facility was generating $5 million in annual gold and silver deposits. In 1906 a new Denver Mint facility opened and strikes the vast majority of its coinage for circulation purposes, rather than commemorative and bullion offerings.
The West Point Mint is the newest location in the US Mint system, earning official status as a mint branch in 1988. It was preceded in the US Mint system by the West Point Bullion Depository, which opened in 1937 and produced US cents from 1973 to 1986. Today, the West Point Mint is still used for partial storage of US gold bullion reserves and is the primary home of production for the American Silver Eagle, American Gold Eagle, and American Platinum Eagle coins.
United States Mint Facts
The US Mint has come a long way from the days of using horse, oxen, and men to power its coining presses. As of 2015, the United States Mint has the capacity to produce as many as 28 billion coins for circulation annually. Its production of gold and silver bullion coins is second-to-none in the global precious metals marketplace as well.
Compare the US Mint’s operations to that of other major sovereign mints, such as the Royal Mint in the United Kingdom and Australia’s Perth Mint, and you’ll quickly realize just how enormous the United States Mint operation has become in 225 years. As of 2016, the United States Mint produced 1.2 million ounces of gold bullion coinage alone, not to mention the 37 million American Silver Eagle coins produced and sold during that same timeframe.
Contrast that with the 534,000 ounces of gold bullion from the Austrian Mint, 520,000 ounces of gold bullion from the Perth Mint, and the 237,000 ounces of gold from the Royal Mint, and you can see that the US Mint alone produces roughly the same amount of gold bullion as many of its top competitors combined.
Celebrating 225 Years of Coinage
On Thursday, January 12th the US Mint unveiled the design of its upcoming 2017 American Liberty Gold Coin. Featuring designs from Mint Artistic Infusion Program designers and Mint Sculptor-Engravers, the all-new 2017 American Liberty Gold Coin will be a must-have for any gold coin enthusiast.
2017 marks the 225th anniversary of the founding of the United States Mint, and the mint is celebrating with a brand-new 24-karat gold coin featuring Liberty as she has not been portrayed to date on an American coin. The United States Mint unveiled the first of its new Liberty designs with a coin that depicts Liberty as an African-American woman.
Created by Mint Artistic Infusion Program Designer Justin Kunz and sculpted by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Phebe Hemphill, Liberty features in a left-profile relief portrait as a woman with African-American features rather than a white woman. Instead of the traditional use of a wreath of laurels for her crown, this Liberty wears the crown of stars found on the Statue of Freedom atop the dome of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington DC.
The crown of stars is large and bold on Liberty’s head, and represents the traditional ideals of liberty while simultaneously hinting at a hopeful future full of possibility. Engravings on this face of the coin include dual dates of “1792” to the left of Liberty and “2017” to the right. Above her head you’ll see “Liberty” engraved, while the national motto “In God We Trust” appears below. The initials of the coin’s designer and sculptor appear on this face as well in the form of “JK” and “PH.”
On the reverse of the coin is the powerful image of an American bald eagle flight. This may be one of the most detailed and intricate designs of an eagle to feature on American coinage, with every facet of the bird’s feathers visible and it sharp eyes keenly watching the horizon as it flies through the coin’s design field. The reverse field has its own set of creators, with Mint Artistic Infusion Program designer Chris T. Costello creating the image and Mint Sculptor-Engraver Michael Gaudioso bringing it to life.
The eagle is surrounded by numerous engravings, which include “United States of America” and “E Pluribus Unum” above. Below is the face value of “100 Dollars,” with “1 oz .9999 Fine Gold” and the “W” mint mark of the West Point Mint to the left of the eagle. Costello and Gaudioso have their initials engraved as well as “CTC” and “MG.”
Two more intriguing facets of the 2017 American Liberty Gold Coin are the high-relief striking and the use of edge lettering for just the second time in US Mint history. The first use of edge lettering was on the 2016 American Silver Eagle Proof coin to celebrate its 30th anniversary, and now the US Mint uses it again to engrave “225th Anniversary” on the coin’s edge, with one star on either side of the edge lettering.
Additionally, these 24-karat gold coins are struck in high-relief by the West Point Mint. Each coin has a deep concave surface on the reverse and obverse, giving a distinctive look and additional beauty.
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