Three defunct U.S. mints created some the most valuable coins known to collectors today.
Take a close gander at any of the quarters in your pocket and you’ll see a small letter next to the picture of Washington. “D” stands for the Denver Mint and “P” stands for the Philadelphia Mint, where coinage for the west and east coast, respectively, currently enters into circulation. Throughout the history of the United States Mint, however, the Department of the Treasury has coined new currency in different states to take advantage of available supply. The mints of San Francisco, Carson City and New Orleans all shut down their operations long ago, meaning that the few coins they did produce are in high demand today. Which gold and silver coins produced in these places have the most value?
1. San Francisco Mint
The famous California Gold Rush of 1849 changed the nation’s economics and added vital gold to an ailing money supply. In 1854, Congress established a new mint in San Francisco in order to quickly turn the gold discovered on the west coast into U.S. currency, creating quick liquidity. The gold boom saw incredible moments like this: a building lot that cost $16 (at the time, about a month’s pay) sold for $50,000 just two years later. Mark Twain famously claimed that California during the gold rush represented a time of “gold, whiskey and fights”; a miner could take in hundreds of dollars in a day and spend it all during a wild night.
Rare and Valuable San Francisco Mint Coins
One of the first coins of the San Francisco Mint remains one of the most rare today: the Liberty Head $2.50 coin from 1854, of which only around 12 remain. The lowest grade of this particular coin last sold for $12,000, while the highest grade sold for over a quarter of a million dollars. The Three Dollar Gold coin is more rare still, with one from 1855 last sold at auction for around $1,300,000.
2. New Orleans Mint
The second-largest city in the United States by the 1840s, New Orleans powered the economic might of the Mississippi River Valley then as it continues to do today. With so much commerce in the Big Easy, government officials opened the New Orleans Mint in 1838 to create standardized currency for a booming South. Given that the New Orleans Mint had to shut down during the Civil War, the interruption in minting makes for both a good story and an inspiration to coin hunters to get the proper sequence for their collection.
Rare and Valuable New Orleans Mint Coins
Without a doubt the most valuable are the last coins of the mint’s life that were produced in 1909. The Indian Head Half-Eagle $5 gold coins minted in 1909 represent the collector’s dream, but these go for a premium. Given that over 300,000 of these coins made it off the presses, their value ranges dramatically according to quality. At the highest end of the spectrum, an Indian Head Half-Eagle from 1909 sold at auction for nearly $650,000 in 2014 1, while the average-quality coins cost about ten thousand dollars.
3. Carson City Mint
Rarest and most highly desired of them all, coins from the Carson City Mint in Nevada were highly sought out after the silver boom in the region during the 1860s (which gave the state its nickname, the Silver State). A fire brought the mint to a premature end in 1893, meaning that Carson City had the briefest lifespan of all the mints, despite minting about fifty million coins.
Rare and Valuable Carson City Mint Coins
Without a doubt the most rare is the 1873 Without Arrows silver dime. As the name suggests, this coin had been minted as an error, meaning that only a few managed to reach production and distribution. Only an indeterminable few survive today, making it one of the most-desired coins in all of American numismatics; one sold in 2012 for nearly $2 million 2 at auction. The mint notably also produced other collector favorites, such as Gold Double Eagles, American Eagles and silver pieces of various denominations.