The Branches of the U.S. Mint,
Past and Present
The United States Mint was established with the passage of the Coinage Act of 1792. As the fledgling nation grew and changed, so did its demand for the coinage needed in everyday life. Due to the difficulties and hazards of transportation in the 19th Century, the United States established branch mints near major gold and silver discoveries, or in newly-opened territory to facilitate commerce. As the gold rushes ebbed and country was criss-crossed with railways, the need for some of these mints subsided, and they were closed.
Along with the original U.S. Mint, still located in Philadelphia, there are active branch Mints in San Francisco, Denver, and West Point, NY, for a total of four U.S. Mint facilities. Former branches were located in Charlotte, NC; Dahlonega, GA; New Orleans; and Carson City, NV.
America's national mint was founded in Philadelphia in 1792, and has produced the nation's coins ever since. Considered the "main" U.S. Mint, the Philadelphia Mint is responsible for research and development and cutting the master dies for coins.
The Charlotte Mint was built in 1838 at the site of the first gold rush in the United States, in North Carolina. It refined and assayed the local gold and struck it into coins. Closed down in 1861 due to the Civil War.
The U.S. Mint branch in Dahlonega, Georgia was established at the same time as the Charlotte and New Orleans Mints. Like Charlotte, Dahlonega was the site of an early gold rush in the 1830s and only minted gold coins. The Dahlonega Mint was also permanently closed in 1861 due to the Civil War.
New Orleans, LA
The New Orleans Mint was the first of the three original branch mints to begin operations in 1838, followed by Charlotte and Dahlonega. The New Orleans Mint was established to supply coinage to the early "frontier" of the United States, and process silver coming from Mexico. It was the only one of the original three branch U.S. Mints to reopen after the Civil War.
San Francisco, CA
The San Francisco Mint was established in 1852 to refine, assay, and mint the gold coming from the famous California Gold Rush. It is the second-oldest U.S. Mint location, next to the original Philadelphia Mint, and today produces proof coins and Silver Eagle bullion coins.
Carson City, NV
The Carson City Mint was authorized to process the massive Comstock Lode silver rush in Nevada, as well as local gold deposits. Beginning operations in 1870, minting operations continued sporadically until 1893. The "CC" mint mark and low mintage figures make coins minted in Carson City very desirable.
Located near the Pikes Peak gold rush, the Denver facility was an assay office until finally being accredited as a U.S. Mint branch in 1895. It produces circulating U.S. coinage in conjunction with the Philadelphia Mint.
West Point Mint
Beginning life in 1938 as the U.S. Silver Depository next to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY, the West Point Mint's vaults held up to 70,000 tons of silver. It now produces the bullion coins of the United States, including the Gold Eagle, Silver Eagle, and Gold Buffalo coins.
Did You Know?
- The San Francisco Mint is the only branch of the U.S. Mint to be downgraded to “U.S. Assay Office,” and subsequently regain its branch Mint status.
- The three story height of the original 1793 U.S. Mint building in Philadelphia made it the tallest building in the city.
- Both the second San Francisco Mint building and the Carson City Mint building survived major earthquakes, due to the sturdy construction needed to safeguard all the gold and silver inside.
- The United States had a U.S. Mint branch in Manila from 1920 to 1941, when the Philippine Islands were a U.S. possession. This is the only U.S. Mint branch ever founded outside the continental United States. The Manila Mint used the “M” mint mark.
- The New Orleans Mint was the only mint in America to strike both United States and Confederate coins. The Confederacy also made coins at the Charlotte and Dahlonega Mints until the bullion stored on-site ran out, but these coins used the existing U.S. Mint dies instead of Confederate dies.
- The Denver Mint was unable to produce coins until two years after the building opened. All the new coining presses meant for the Denver Mint were first used as exhibits at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. They didn’t finish their journey to Denver until after the Fair closed in December, 1904.