Earlier this month we posted an article that provides an overview of government mints around the world, including their history, main functions, and the gold coins, silver coins and bullion they produce. As an extension of this article, we will be taking a more in-depth look at each of the main government mints highlighted, starting with this overview of the U.S. Mint. The United States Mint is the largest operating mint in the world today and it produces gold and silver coins that are highly sought after by coin collectors and investors. The U.S. Mint has been in operation since 1792 and currently operates across six different sites throughout the country, with its headquarters located in Washington, D.C.
In this overview, we will cover the history of the U.S. mint, its functions, facilities, and the types of gold and silver coins and bullion it produces. If you are looking for gold or silver commemorative coins from the U.S. Mint to add to your collection, such as the gold or silver American Eagle and the America the Beautiful series, visit one of our PGS Store locations to view our inventory.
Our numismatic professionals can help you find the U.S. Mint coins you are looking for and we can also offer fair and accurate appraisals for any coins you wish to sell.
History of the U.S. Mint
The U.S. Mint was established in 1792 when Congress passed the Coinage Act which created the mint, set the U.S. dollar as the main currency, and regulated the minting of U.S. currency. The first facility in Philadelphia was the first building officially erected in the United Sates as an act of Congress. The Philadelphia location is currently the largest facility of the U.S. Mint. The headquarters in Washington D.C. does not produce coins or currency.
Upon its creation, the U.S. Mint was part of the State Department but became an independent agency in 1799. The first function of the U.S. Mint was to convert precious metals like gold and silver into standard coins. At this point, anyone could have the U.S. Mint convert their gold and silver bullion into standard coins with very little charge other than the refining costs. The Coinage Act of 1873 ended this practice and put the U.S. strictly on the gold standard. It also made the U.S. Mint part of the Department of the Treasury instead of an independent agency. The U.S. Mint has been under the control of the Treasurer of the United States since 1981 and the currency it produces is strictly for the Treasury.
The main mint facility has been the Philadelphia Mint since it opened in 1792, and the first branch mints were established in 1838 in Charlotte, NC; Dahlonega, GA; and New Orleans, LA. The Charlotte and Dahlonega Mints, which minted only gold coins from local gold deposits, were closed at the start of the Civil War. The New Orleans Mint was temporarily closed between 1861 and 1879, and then was closed for good in 1909. The New Orleans Mint produces gold and silver coinage including gold dollars and quarter eagles.
The Manila Mint in the Philippines is the only U.S. Mint facility that has operated outside of the continental United States. This mint was established when the Philippines was a colony of the U.S. in 1920. The Manila Mint operated until 1941 with a three-year hiatus between 1922 and 1925. The Manila Mint produced coins used by residents of the colony.
U.S. Mint Facilities
The U.S. Mint consists of six different facilities including coin producing facilities in Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, and West Point, as well as non-producing facilities in Washington, D.C. and Fort Knox. The following is an overview of each facility:
- Philadelphia: This facility is the largest of the U.S. Mint and has been in operation since the establishment of the U.S. Mint in 1792. The current facility is the fourth building for the Philadelphia Mint which began operation in 1969. Almost all official proof coinage was produced at the Philadelphia Mint before 1968. Most coins produced there did not have a mint mark until 1980. The Philadelphia Mint houses the engraving and design departments of the U.S. Mint, as well as the production of the master dies used for producing U.S. coins. The mint mark of the Philadelphia Mint is a “P”.
- Denver: The Denver Mint was established in 1863 shortly after the discovery of gold in the Denver area. By the start of the 20th century, this mint had annual gold and silver deposits worth more than $5 million. The current Denver facility opened in 1906 and has since been responsible for producing coinage meant for circulation. Working dies for producing coinage are also made at this mint which are used at the Denver facility and at other U.S. Mint locations. The mint mark of the Denver Mint is a “D” which is the same as the Dahlonega Mint, but because the Dahlonega Mint was closed before the Denver Mint began operation, coinage with the “D” mint mark can be distinguished by the year.
- San Francisco: The San Francisco Mint was established in 1854 during the California Gold Rush. It moved into a new building in 1874 because it grew quickly and could no longer be accommodated in the original building. This second San Francisco Mint facility survived the 1906 earthquake and operated until 1937. The current coin facility has operated ever since, except for a 10-year period between 1955 and 1965. It was reopened in the mid-1960s due to a coin shortage in the U.S. Since 1975, this facility has been used almost exclusively for proof coinage. Coins produced in San Francisco have the mint mark “S”.
- West Point: The West Point Mint became an official branch of the U.S. Mint in 1988. This facility was preceded by the West Point Bullion Depository that operated from 1937 through 1986. The purpose of the original facility was to store bullion reserves for the U.S. government and it also produced pennies starting in 1973. The current West Point facility still provides storage for bullion reserves and produces mostly proof coinage and commemorative coins including the American Eagle coins in gold, silver, and platinum. The mint mark for West Point is a “W”.
- Fort Knox: The U.S. Bullion Depository located in Fort Knox, KY is used to store gold and silver bullion reserves for the U.S. and other countries. This facility is considered a branch of the U.S. Mint even though it does not produce any coinage.
Functions of the U.S. Mint
The main responsibility of the U.S. Mint is to produce coinage for circulation. It also produces national medals, collectible coin sets, bullion coins such as the American Eagle, and commemorative coins for national figures and events. The U.S. Mint produces coinage only; the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is responsible for producing paper currency in the United States.
The major functions of the U.S. Mint include the following:
- Production of domestic and foreign coins as well as bullion coins
- Production of commemorative medals
- Design and production of congressional gold medals
- Design, production, and marketing of special coins including commemorative coins and proof coins for collectors
- Protection and movement of bullion reserves
- Authorized disbursement of gold and silver
- Distribution of coins to Federal Reserve Banks
Coins Produced by the U.S. Mint
The U.S. Mint produces a number of bullion coins of different designs and denominations, as well as commemorative coins and proof sets that are sought after by coin collectors. The following are some of the coins that collectors can find from the U.S. Mint:
- Gold Coins: The U.S. Mint produces a number of gold coins that are made and sold to coin collectors. These gold coins range in composition from one-tenth of an ounce to one full ounce and consist of either 22 or 24 karat gold. These coins are also available in proof and uncirculated finishes. The U.S. Mint does not sell gold coins directly to the public. To purchase gold bullion coins, you must go through a certified coin dealer. Gold coins are produced at the West Point Mint and include the American Buffalo, American Eagle, and American Liberty coins.
- Silver Coins: The silver coins produced by the U.S. Mint are produced for collectors and are available in proof and uncirculated finishes. These coins are produced in three denominations, including quarters, half dollars, and dollars. Their composition ranges from 1 to 5 ounces of silver. Most of these silver coins contain 99% pure silver except for the commemorative silver dollars that typically consist of 90% silver and 10% copper. Silver coins from the U.S. Mint include the America the Beautiful series quarters and commemorative silver dollars that are produced in Philadelphia and silver American Eagles that are produced at West Point.
- Palladium Coins: The U.S. Mint recently added the 2018 American Eagle One Ounce Palladium Proof Coin produced at West Point to their catalog. Currently, this is the only palladium coin offered by the U.S. Mint and it must be purchased through a coin dealer.
- Platinum Coins: The U.S. Mint offers two platinum coins, the platinum American Eagle and the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence 2018 Platinum Proof Coin, both of which are produced at West Point. These coins are 99.9% platinum and must be purchased through a reputable coin dealer.
- Commemorative Coins: The commemorative coins offered by the U.S. Mint are authorized by Congress to honor important American events, people, institutions, and places. These coins are the only coins produced by the U.S. Mint that raise money for important causes. The money raised from commemorative coins has been invested into museums, preservation of historical sites, maintenance of national monuments, and other important programs. Commemorative coins are typically produced in gold and silver and are only available for a limited time in limited quantity. The commemorative coins for 2018 include the Breast Cancer Awareness gold and silver dollars and the World War I Centennial silver dollar.
The U.S. Mint has a rich history and produces some of the most popular gold and silver coins sought after by collectors. As the largest mint in the world, it produces tens of billions of coins each year including coins for circulation, commemorative coins and bullion coins. Understanding the functions of the U.S. Mint will give you some further insight into the collectible coins produced by the mint.
If you are looking to add American commemorative or bullion coins to your collection, make sure you visit a certified coin dealer like PGS Gold & Coin. We have a large inventory of gold and silver bullion coins as well as commemorative coins from the U.S. Mint. Our numismatic professionals are happy to assist you in locating a specific coin for your collection. We offer fair and accurate appraisals for those looking to sell their coin collections. Visit one of our three PGS Gold & Coin Chicago area locations to view our inventory or get an appraisal.