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All About U.S. Mints and Mint Marks

[photo: 1st Philadelphia Mint]

1st Philadelphia Mint

America’s first mint started operations in Philadelphia in 1793, and cents and half cents were the very first U.S. coins struck for circulation. Once the site of a former brewery, that mint (shown right) was very different from today’s mechanized facility. All the dies were cut by hand, and each die cutter would add his own touches. A screw press was used to squeeze the planchets between the obverse and reverse dies. Horses or strong men powered the press, and the mint’s security system was a ferocious dog named Nero! Today, four different U.S. Mints strike coins, while four others have struck coins in the past. A small letter or mint mark on coins identifies the mints that struck them. These marks date back to ancient Greece and Rome. Mint marks on U.S. coins began with the passage of the Act of March 3, 1835. This established our first branch mints, and mint marks appeared on coins for the first time in 1838.

Eight U.S. Mints, Past and Present

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1793-Date, “P” mint mark

[photo: U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania]

This has always been the main U.S. Mint facility. Most coins struck here have no mint marks. The exceptions are the Wartime nickels of 1942-45, Anthony dollars of 1979, and all Philadelphia coins since 1980 except the cent, which continues without. (Pictured: 2nd Philadelphia Mint 1833‑1901)

Denver, Colorado 1906-Date, “D” mint mark

[photo: U.S. Mint in Denver, Colorado]

Major gold and silver discoveries in Colorado led to an establishment of a branch U.S. Mint, which grew out of an assay office. The building, completed in 1904 and enlarged in 1937, enabled Denver to set a record in 1969, when over 5 billion coins were produced there.

West Point, New York 1984-Date, “W” mint mark

[photo: U.S. Mint in West Point, New York]

Located adjacent to the U.S. Military Academy, the former West Point Bullion Depository officially became a U.S. Mint on March 31, 1988. Although West Point struck coins and medals beginning in 1974, no mint marks appeared until 1983, with the striking of 1984 Olympic $10 gold eagles.

San Francisco, California 1854-Date, “S” mint mark

[photo: U.S. Mint in San Francisco, California]

When gold was discovered in 1848, massive population growth began in California. Coins were in short supply and private issues were being used. So Congress rapidly established a San Francisco branch mint, and coinage was under way by 1854. (Pictured: 2nd San Francisco Mint 1874-1937)

Carson City, Nevada 1870-1893, “CC” mint mark

[photo: U.S. Mint in Carson City, Nevada]

The Comstock Lode of Virginia City, Nevada, was such a large strike that a branch mint was set up in nearby Carson City, named after the famous frontiersman Kit Carson. This Nevada mint was a short-lived facility and produced some of the scarcest coins in numismatics.

New Orleans, Louisiana 1838-1909, “O” mint mark

[photo: U.S. Mint in New Orleans, Louisiana]

This southern mint underwent a stormy history through the Civil War years, controlled at times by the state of Louisiana and the Confederacy. After its closure in 1909, the building was used as an assay office until 1942, and was renovated as a museum in 1979.

Charlotte, North Carolina 1838-1861, “C” mint mark

[photo: U.S. Mint in Charlotte, North Carolina]

This short-lived southern branch mint struck only gold coins during its brief existence. It was seized in 1861 by the Confederacy and was never re-opened.

Dahlonega, Georgia 1838-1861, “D” mint mark

[photo: U.S. Mint in Dahlonega, Georgia]

Another short-lived southern branch mint that struck only gold coins. It too was seized in 1861 by the southern forces and was never re-opened as a mint.

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