The U.S. Mints
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1793-Date, “P” mint mark or none
- Denver, Colorado 1906-Date, “D” mint mark
- San Francisco, California 1854-Date, “S” mint mark
- Carson City, Nevada 1870-1893, “CC” mint mark
- New Orleans, Louisiana 1838-1909, “O” mint mark
- West Point, New York 1984-Date, “W” mint mark
Often left off the list of U.S. Mints are the two Southern Mints long closed, almost forgotten except by astute Rare Coin collectors. As Gold was discovered in The Southern States, official branches of the U.S. Mint were opened in—
- Charlotte, North Carolina 1838-1861, “C” mint mark
- Dahlonega, Georgia 1838-1861, “D” mint mark
Anyone looking to acquire the oldest and rarest of U.S. Mint coins often look first to these early branch U.S. Mints opened in the Old South before the Civil War.
Today, there are four active Mints, one in Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, and West Point. However, the US Mint began in Philadelphia, the nation’s capital at the time, with the Coinage Act of 1792. Before this establishment, the young, yet growing United States relied on foreign currency, livestock, and produce for their monetary transactions. So, with the close of the Revolutionary War, the governing Articles of Confederation authorized states to mint their own coins. This decision, made in 1788, led to the country’s plans for a national mint.
Why U.S. Mints Were Needed
Silver spanish pieces of eight or Charles III, minted in Santiago
The Spanish dollar, also known as the piece of eight (in Spanish: Real de a ocho, Dólar, Peso duro, Peso fuerte or Peso), is a silver coin of approximately 38 mm (1.5 in) diameter worth eight Spanish reales. It was minted in the Spanish Empire following a monetary reform in 1497. It was widely used as the first international currency because of its uniformity in standard and milling characteristics. Pieces of Eight
Just as the US dollar is the most ubiquitous currency today, the Spanish dollar, or “piece of eight,” was the world’s currency beginning in 1598 and remained legal tender in the United States until 1857. It was equal to the thaler in size and weight but was more accessible.
During the colonial era, England insisted that the colonies supply them with silver and reduced its silver coinage accordingly. The Spanish dollar filled the void until the Coinage Act of 1792 changed all that.
The United States adopts a currency
Once the US Constitution was adopted, the new Congress was able to provide more economic stability in the national economy through its standardized coinage. President George Washington signed the Coinage Act of 1792, which officially adopted the dollar as the national currency within a decimal system, making the United States the first country to do so.
The U.S Constitution in Article I, section 10 reads—
“No state shall…coin money, emit bills of credit, make any thing but gold and silver a tender in payment of debts…”
This means that the only constitutionally valid forms of money are gold or silver coin. This is called ‘lawful money.’
Growing Nation Needed Official Money
The United States Mint was created to provide the rapidly growing nation with ‘lawful money’ needed for commerce. Official Legal Tender coins were designed and first minted in 1793 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
By far the leading specie coin circulating in America was the Spanish silver dollar, defined as consisting of 387 grains of pure silver. The dollar was divided into “pieces of eight,” or “bits,” each consisting of one-eighth of a dollar. Spanish dollars came into the North American colonies through lucrative trade with the West Indies. The Spanish silver dollar had been the world’s outstanding coin since the early 16th century, and was spread partially by dint of the vast silver output of the Spanish colonies in Latin America. More important, however, was that the Spanish dollar, from the 16th to the 19th century, was relatively the most stable and least debased coin in the Western world.