Dr. Sol Taylor

Charlotte, One of Two New Gold Coining Mints

By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
Saturday, July 11, 2009

First of two parts.

The 19th-century branch mint at Charlotte, N.C., was transformed into an art museum in the 1930s.
o facilitate the production of gold coins primarily, President Andrew Johnson signed a bill in 1835 authorizing the opening of three new mints — adding to the overburdened Philadelphia Mint.
    The New Orleans Mint (covered in our article of December 27, 2008) would essentially duplicate the activity of the mother mint in Philadelphia — except for die making and some other technical duties.
    The two minor facilities were located at Charlotte, N.C., to handle the output of the Reed Gold Mine, and the Dahlonega Mint, near the site of the first North American Gold Rush known as the Georgia Gold Rush (which I will discuss in part 2).
    The Charlotte Mint was set up to handle domestic gold and some recycled gold coins and bullion from foreign sources. It was authorized under the Act of March 3, 1835. In 1836, the Mint building was erected; it opened for business July 27, 1837.
    Only domestic raw gold was processed and refined until March 28, 1838, when the first $5 gold coins were struck at the new mint.
    The same year saw a limited production of $2½ gold coins. The small supply of domestic gold resulted in small mintages of coins made at the mint — each with a distinctive "C" mintmark. All of these coins today are scarce to very rare.
    Starting in 1849, the Charlotte Mint started to manufacture $1 gold coins. The mint operated until 1861 when the Civil War broke out.
    In May 1861, the Confederacy seceded from the Union and the South took over the Charlotte Mint. The mint continued to operate but on a very limited scale, and the production of coins ceased during 1861. In fact, the $1 coins are very scarce to rare; the 1861-C $5 is rare with only 6,879 recorded as made. Only a few are known today in collections.
    By October 1861, the mint ceased to operate and the building was converted to a hospital, and still later for military use during the war.
    In its short tenure, the Charlotte Mint produced about $5 million in gold coins from the $1 to the $5 in annual mintages often in the low thousands, with a high of 72,000 in 1852. Some years, the production of coins barely reached five figures. Most years, the $2½ coins had mintages below 10,000. Among the $1 gold coins, the 1851-C is the most common with a mintage of 41,000, while the other years averaged below 10,000.
    After the Civil War, federal troops used the building as headquarters until 1867. The government later used the building as an assay office and operated it until 1913 when the domestic gold supply essentially dried up. During World War I it served as a Red Cross center.
    In 1931 the building was to be demolished for an expansion of the post office next door. A group of private citizens acquired the building from the U.S. Treasury in 1933. The building was relocated to the south of downtown Charlotte. In 1936 it was dedicated as a Mint Museum of Art. The mint features artworks plus a complete set of each coin minted at the Charlotte Mint. Today the set of coins represents a significant capital investment with hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars in value. The Charlotte Mint made no silver or copper coins during its short lifespan.

    Next time: The Dahlonega Mint.