Every country has an official government mint responsible for manufacturing domestic coinage to facilitate commerce and trade. The United States Mint stands out as one of the largest in the world with an annual production of nearly 15 billion coins worth over $1 trillion. The rich history of the U.S. Mint and its fascinating process offers both collectors and investors a unique perspective into the diverse world of American coinage.
A Brief History of the U.S. Mint
The U.S. Mint is the sole authority responsible for minting coins for circulation as legal tender as well as the production and movement of official bullion coins. Although the early government outlined the creation of a national mint as early as 1782, it took a decade before the U.S. Mint assumed its current form.
It was officially founded in 1792 in Philadelphia which was the capital of the newly independent United States. The U.S. Mint’s original location was the first official construction by the federal government. This initial U.S. Mint building was affectionately known as “Ye Olde Mint” and even had an apt mascot in the form of a bald eagle called Peter Jefferson.
How many US Mints are there?
Currently, the U.S. Mint operates four branches across the country in Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, and West Point. It also operates a sizeable bullion depository in legendary Fort Knox, Kentucky, and it’s headquartered in Washington, D.C. However, five other mint locations have since been decommissioned. The location and timeline of the various facilities mirrors the expansion of the nation westward, the blossoming of different regions, and the wealth of precious metals reserves in the country.
Philadelphia Mint (Active)
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Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Mint Mark: P
As the original U.S. Mint, the Philadelphia Mint has the longest production streak of all locations. It’s inhabited four different buildings and has never missed a year of production. The Philadelphia Mint has the capacity to manufacture one million coins within just 30 minutes, making it one of the most active mints in the country. Before, only uncirculated coins were adorned with the “P” mint mark, with minor exceptions. Since 1980, all coins (since 2017 for pennies) have this mint mark.
Charlotte Mint (Defunct)
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Mint Mark: C
The Charlotte Mint was the first branch of the U.S. Mint. After the U.S. set up its first gold mine in North Carolina, demand increased for a federally operated, local mint to avoid long and dangerous trips to Philadelphia. The government eventually authorized the creation of mint branches which paved the legal path for the creation of all subsequent mint locations.
Throughout its tenure, the Charlotte Mint was only authorized to produce gold coins. When the Civil War broke out, this mint branch was promptly shut down and never reopened.
Dahlonega Mint (Defunct)
Location: Dahlonega, Georgia
Mint Mark: D (Now used by the Denver Mint)
The Georgia Gold Rush spurred the creation of a U.S. Mint branch in Dahlonega, Georgia so miners wouldn’t have to make the risky, expensive, and time-consuming trek to Philadelphia. It was established under the same act of legislation permitting the Charlotte Mint. Similar to its North Carolina counterpart, the Dahlonega Mint only produced gold coins, primarily in $5, $3, $2.5, and $1 iterations. The Confederacy claimed control of the mint and is believed to have produced some coinage. After the end of the Civil War, The United States Government decided against reopening the mint.
New Orleans Mint (Defunct)
Operation: 1838–1861, 1879–1909
Locations: New Orleans, Louisiana
Mint Mark: O
New Orleans was chosen as the location for the third branch of the U.S. Mint due to its strategic position along the Mississippi River, making it one of the most active trade centers in the entire country. The New Orleans Mint quickly became the most active branch after the Philadelphia Mint. Over the years, it produced 427 million coins spanning a wide range of gold and silver coinage. Unlike Charlotte and Dahonega, the New Orleans branch was resurrected following the Civil War in 1879. It operated for an additional three decades, focusing primarily on the production of silver dollars.
San Francisco Mint (Active)
Locations: San Francisco, California
Mint Mark: S
Similar to previous mint locations, the San Francisco branch was prompted by the iconic California Gold Rush. In the beginning, it focused almost exclusively on the production of gold coinage. In fact, the San Francisco Mint converted more than $4 million of gold bullion into various types of coins within its first year of operation. An ever-increasing demand for coinage saw the mint transition between four different buildings. The combination of abundant gold reserves and massive population growth quickly secured the San Francisco Mint as one of the country’s most important mint branches.
“Gold and silver give you… peace of mind, privacy, protection.”– Precious Metals Advisor Joe Elkjer
Carson City Mint (Defunct)
Operation: 1870–1885, 1889–1893
Location: Carson City, Nevada
Mint Mark: CC
The Carson City Mint is one of the most well-known U.S. Mint branches among numismatists due to its elusive silver coinage. The mint was opened in response to the founding of the significant Comstock Lode, a huge collection of silver located in the Virginia Range of Nevada. As a result, the Carson City Mint minted significant numbers of silver coins, especially Morgan Silver Dollars. However, a considerable amount of gold coinage was also produced, roughly in equal value to the mint’s silver output.
Denver Mint (Active)
Location: Denver, Colorado
Mint Mark: D (Replaced the Dahlonega Mint’s mark after its closure)
The Pikes Peak Gold Rush of the late 1800s spurred the creation of the Denver Mint in 1906. Instead of building a mint from scratch, the government purchased a private facility under the operation of Clark, Gruber, and Company. What started as a small, local mint quickly grew into the world’s largest producer of coins. Today, the Denver Mint produces over 50 million coins daily. This branch produces everything from circulating coinage to commemorative coins and mint sets.
Manila Mint (Defunct)
Location: Manila, Philippines
Operation: 1920–1922, 1925–1941
Mint Mark: M
After the Spanish-American War, the Philippines fell under U.S. control. The Manila Mint was initially used by the government to produce Spanish-style coinage to increase the chances of adoption in the new territory. Eventually, the mint became a branch of the U.S. Mint, making it the first and only official mint location not based in the contiguous U.S. The Manila Mint was eventually abandoned when the Imperial Japanese invaded at the beginning of WWII.
West Point Mint
Location: West Point, New York
Mint Mark: W
The West Point Mint started as a federally operated depository of silver bullion, giving it the nickname “the Fort Knox of Silver”. In 1988, the facility was officially registered as a branch of the U.S. Mint. Throughout its operation, the location has primarily minted Lincoln pennies and commemorative coins. However, the West Point Mint has remained a crucial depository of the nation’s bullion. Currently, it’s only second to Fort Knox, Kentucky in terms of its gold reserves.
“Gold is the foundation of any economic system.”– Precious Metals Advisor John Karow