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The Mints of the United States

If you’ve ever looked at a coin, chances are you’ve been interested in what was on it. There’s the year it was stamped, various Latin sayings, some images of buildings or famous individuals from US history, and there usually is a random letter. You probably know that the letter corresponds to the Mint facility that produced the coin, but what letter stands for what? How Mint facilities are there? Where are they located?

The United States Mint is the agency in the United States Government responsible for the production of coins used in the US. It was created in 1792 by the Coinage Age of 1792 and put within the State Department. Later that year, the Mint opened its main branch in Philadelphia, PA and soon expanded to include several facilities across the United States. In 1799, with the Coinage Act of 1873, it was made an independent agency.

Mints & Mint Marks

There have been several Mint facilities in its history, there are only four active coin-producing mints today. The largest of them is the main office of the Mint in Philadelphia, PA. The current Philadelphia facility was opened in 1969. All coins, except the penny, created in Philadelphia after 1980 have a P mint mark, those created before had no mark. The engraving and design departments, as well as master die production for US coins, are located at the Philadelphia Mint.

The Denver Mint began in 1863 as a local assay office as a result of gold discoveries in the area. Assay offices test the purity of precious metals like gold. In 1906, the Mint opened a branch there and produces only circulation coins. Coins minted here bear the D mint mark.

The San Francisco Mint opened in 1854 much like Denver did, as an assay office to support the California gold rush. After numerous openings and closings, as a result of fluctuating coin demand, the Mint is now responsible primarily for proof coinage. Until 1868, the Philadelphia Mint was responsible for proof coinage before it was moved to San Francisco. Coins produced here bear an S mint mark.

The four branch is located in West Point and was granted official status as a branch of the Mint in 1988. It started as the West Point Bullion Depository, which opened in 1937, and produced pennies from 1973 to 1986. It was also responsible for producing many commemorative and proof coins, evidenced by a W mint mark. Today, it still holds gold bullion and is the only production facility for gold, silver, and platinum American Eagle coins.

Fort Knox is a Mint facility but produces no coins. Much like the West Point Bullion Depository, it’s primary function is to store gold and silver bullion reserves for the United States and other nations.

Mint Mark Recap

Here’s a quick recap of the four Mint marks and where the coins were produced. For coins in circulation, you’ll usually see a D or a P or no stamp. With no stamp, the coin is usually from Philadelphia unless it was a penny. In that case, there’s no way to tell whether it’s a Denver produced or Philadelphia produced coin.

I think I’ve been on a trivia kick lately, after reading about the most valuable US coin [3] and compiling a 50 fun facts about money [4]. 🙂

(Photo: pagedooley [5])