The first United States Mint opened in 1792 in Philadelphia through the passage of the Coinage Act. The mission of the United States Mint is to manufacture and distribute legal coinage, along with precious metal and collectible coinage. As the need for more coinage spread, along with the expanding gold rush, the Mint opened up multiple more facilities across the country.
After Philadelphia, the United States opened up branch mints in Charlotte, North Carolina (1838-1861), Dahlonega, Georgia (1838-1861), New Orleans, Louisiana (1838-1909), San Francisco, California (1854-Present), Carson City, Nevada (1870-1893), Denver, Colorado (1906-Present), West Point, New York (1988-Present), as well as a foreign coinage mint in Manila, Philippines (1920-1922, 1925-1941) which produced Filipino coins during the United States imperialistic control. The only remaining US Mints are Philadelphia, San Francisco, Denver, and West Point. The US Mint also has a bullion depository in Fort Knox, Kentucky, and headquarters in Washington, DC but neither produce any coins.
The first coin production at the Philadelphia mint included various denominations. The mint produced half cents and cents in copper; they produced half dimes, dimes, quarters, half dollars, and dollars in silver; quarter eagles ($2.50), half eagles ($5), and eagles ($10) were produced in gold. These denominations and the metals used to mint the coin have changed many times throughout the Mint’s history.
The first three branch mints were created after the start of the United States gold rush in North Carolina and Georgia. The increase in gold made it hard for the Philadelphia Mint to keep up with production, so Congress passed legislation to open new mints in North Carolina, Georgia, and New Orleans. The mints in North Carolina and Georgia only produced gold coins, while the New Orleans Mint produced both gold and silver coins. After the Civil War, the North Carolina and Georgia mints never produced more coins, while the New Orleans Mint reopened in 1879 and continued minting until its closure in 1909.
In 1849, gold fever spread west, all the way to California. The transportation costs to send gold to Philadelphia became too large, so the next branch mint was opened in San Francisco. In 1858, gold was found around Colorado, leading an influx of people to reside in Denver. In 1862, Congress decided to open another mint in Denver to produce gold coins; however, the facility was only used as an assay office to melt, assay, and cast the gold into bars until 1895, when it was converted to a mint and finally began producing gold and silver coins in 1906.
The Carson City Mint opened up in 1870 to accept silver deposits from the Comstock Lode, the United States’ largest silver strike. The Mint was closed in 1885 due to political reasons and was reopened in 1889. Coinage operations stopped in 1893, and its Mint status was finally withdrawn in 1899. The facility remained an assay office until 1933. Many assay offices were needed in the west to access and process the recently mined metals. Most of the offices closed in the early 1900s as the mining of precious metals slowed.
As coin and bar production in the United States continued to expand, the need for a secure storage facility became necessary. The Fort Knox Bullion Depository was opened in 1936 in Kentucky. In 1938 the West Point Bullion Depository was opened and remained a storage facility until 1973 when they started producing pennies to reduce the stress on other mints. West Point also produced Bicentennial quarters in 1976 and gold medals starting in 1980. It became an official US Mint in 1988.
The Manila Mint
The United States also ran a foreign Mint in Manila, Philippines. In 1898, the United States attacked Manila Bay as part of the Spanish-American war. At that time, the Philippines were controlled by Spain, and by the end of the year, the islands were handed over to the US. The US did not gain control until 1902, as Filipino citizens revolted in a bloody Philippine-American War. The United States began minting Filipino currency at the San Francisco and Philadelphia Mints. There was major pressure to produce coinage for the Filipino economy, so Congress authorized a branch to be opened in Manila. The Manila Mint operated from 1920-1922 and 1925-1941. During World War II, Japan attacked the island in 1941 and fought until the United States surrendered. The Manila Mint was run by the Japanese Empire, but was later destroyed by artillery fire during the retaking of the Philippines by the United States and the Philippine Commonwealth in 1945. This ended the United States’ first and only mint outside of the US. The Philippines achieved independence in 1946.
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