Where Do They Make Our Coins?

S.F. Mint
Known as the Granite Lady, the second San Francisco Mint, seen here in July, was one of the few buildings to survive the 1906 earthquake. In 1937 it was replaced with the modern facility. (Photo: Leon Worden/The Signal)

By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
The Signal
Saturday, October 15, 2005

any, if not most, people think our coins are made in Washington, D.C.
    Our paper money, along with documents such as bonds — and, until this past June, postage stamps — are made at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C., and at the BEP branch facility in Fort Worth, Texas.
    Our circulating coins are made in Philadelphia and Denver.
    The Philadelphia Mint opened in 1793. The original building and site have been changed over the years, with the most recent version opening in 1969 just a few blocks from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell exhibit. The coins made in Philadelphia cover all the various types and metallic compositions, from pure copper to gold.
    The other U.S. Mint in operation for general commercial use is the Denver Mint, which opened in 1906. All coins minted in Denver have a "D" mint mark.
    Beginning in 1979, the coins minted in Philadelphia have a "P" mint mark, except for the one-cent coins.
    The San Francisco Mint opened in 1854 to meet the need for coins for the rapidly growing California area and for the minting of gold and silver coins as these ores became available. The San Francisco Mint ceased regular coinage with the 1955 issue of the dime and cent, and since then has been used for proof coinage — except for the period of 1968 to 1974, when it issued cents and nickels with the "S" mint mark. The Mint itself is primarily a museum in the downtown area of the city.
    With the expansion of silver mining in Nevada and nearby states, the Carson City Mint was opened in 1870 to handle the manufacture of silver and gold coins. Although not used every year for each denomination, silver and gold coins were released until it closed in 1893. Many of the coins with the "CC" mint mark are quite valuable, as they were not minted in large quantities.
    The New Orleans Mint opened in 1838 and, except for the Civil War period, produced silver and gold coins for general commerce. It closed in 1909.
    Early gold mining in North Carolina and Georgia resulted in the opening of two small branch mints — one at Dahlonega, Geo., and one at Charlotte, N.C. They minted gold coins from 1838 to the early part of the Civil War, when both were closed down.
    Starting in 1984, a branch mint has been operating at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. The mint mark "W" is seen on commemorative and bullion silver and gold coins minted at this facility. Although some regular coinage has also been minted at West Point, no "W" mint mark was used.
    The Philadelphia and Denver mints both have public displays and free tours and sell various coins, medals and proof sets produced by the Mint. The Philadelphia Mint also features a stuffed eagle in its lobby display. The eagle was a resident in the rafters of the old Mint when he got caught in a flywheel about 1860 and was killed. It is believed he was the model for many of our coins of that era.

    Dr. Sol Taylor of Sherman Oaks is president of the Society of Lincoln Cent Collectors and author of The Standard Guide to the Lincoln Cent. Click here for ordering information.