Show Me the Money!

With Christmas just a few weeks away a lot of thoughts turn to money. People wonder how on earth they’re going to be able to get through the holidays with all the shopping to do in addition to buying food fit for a feast.

We can’t do much without money that’s for sure. Like it or not, it determines how we live.

My family knows I’m a big coin collector. Next to writing, it’s my favorite activity. I also like spending money and shopping but that’s a story for another time.

The love of money might be the root of all evil, but we want as much of it as we can get. So this blog is about where our money came from originally and where it still comes from.

And who knows, maybe Santa is listening!  🙂

The Philadelphia Mint was the first national mint. Shortly after the Constitution was ratified, President George Washington recognized the importance of coining the nation’s money. The Mint Act of 1792 became law and the first mint was built in Philadelphia since it was the nation’s capital at the time. It was built to specification with a basement that contained vaults where gold and silver was stored, a first floor that had deposit/weighing rooms and a press room where coins were struck, and a third floor was for offices. To travel from floor to floor, one had to walk up a dark creepy stairway that was dimly lit by a tallow lamp. Must’ve been kinda ghostly, don’t you think? A smelt and mill house was built behind the mint and the first coins were struck in 1793. The Philadelphia mint has moved several times to newer buildings and is still in service today, minting a large portion of our money.

The Charlotte Mint was the first branch mint. It processed ore from nearby North Carolina Gold Rush fields. (I’ve never heard of this gold rush. I’d like to hear from you if you have. Might be a story in here.) The mint struck gold coins continuously from 1838 until the Civil War broke out. Coins from this mint are very rare and sought after. In fact, not many people are aware this mint ever existed. Operation discontinued after North Carolina seceded from the Union and never resumed. During the war, the mint became a hospital and military offices.

The Dahlonega, Georgia Mint is another relatively unknown facility. It also operated from 1838 to 1861 when the Civil War broke out. Dahlonega is a Cherokee word for “yellow money.” Gold was discovered here in the 1820’s and the town became a gold rush boomtown. (Another gold rush I didn’t know much about.) The U.S. government created this branch mint to convert mined gold into coins. The Cherokee Nation owned ancestral land where the gold mines were located. They were ordered away from their homes by the state of Georgia in 1828. The Cherokees fought in court to keep their land and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in their favor. But President Andrew Jackson ignored the ruling and had the Cherokee forcibly removed. In 1838, Georgia troops rounded up the Cherokees and marched them west under military escort. This became known as the “Trail of Tears.” All for the sake of gold. That’s sad. The first coins were struck in Dahlonega in April 1838. When minting operations ended with the Civil War, they had struck approx. $6 million in cold coins. Today these coins are extremely rare. The facility was turned into the North Georgia Agricultural College after the war.

The New Orleans Mint operated from 1838 to 1861 and then again from 1879 to 1909. When the Philadelphia Mint couldn’t keep up demand for coinage needed for western expansion, President Andrew Jackson signed into law and authorized construction of this branch mint. New Orleans was a port of entry and received gold and silver from Mexico through here. It was also a vital link to the western frontier. Some of the gold from the California Gold Strike of 1848 made its way to New Orleans to be minted. The mint’s production increased to more than $10 million in coinage. But the Civil War again caused a cease of operations and the State of Louisiana took control in 1861 after seceding from the Union. The state utilized the facility and began producing Confederate coins. It held the distinction of being the only Southern mint to produce coins bearing the designs of the Confederate States of America. The U.S. Government resumed production in 1879 until closing for good in 1909. It struck both gold and silver coinage.

The San Francisco Mint is known as the Granite Lady because it was large, elaborate, and strong. It functioned as a mint from 1854 to 1955, then from 1968 to the present. A short time after the discovery at Sutter’s Mill that set off the California Gold Rush, the San Francisco Mint began turning out gold and silver coins. In the first year, it produced gold pieces totaling over $4 million. Double eagles, half eagles, quarter eagles and the prized Morgan silver dollars started rolling off the press. A substantial portion of U.S. coins came from this mint. But few know that the Granite Lady also struck coins for several Latin American countries! That’s a surprising fact. The Granite Lady survived the 1906 earthquake and was the only San Francisco financial institution left unscathed. Today the SF Mint only produces proof coins for collectors.

The Carson City Mint was built in response to the discovery of Nevada’s Comstock Lode. It operated from 1870 to 1893. Unlike any other, coins bearing the “CC” mint mark represent Wild West history. Cowboys, gamblers, miners and shady ladies carried and did business with these coins. Wells Fargo Express delivered valuable coinage dies all the way from the Philadelphia and the first coins were struck in Jan. 1870. This mint struck gold eagles, double eagles, half eagles, and plenty of Morgan silver dollars and lesser silver coins. The Carson City Mint evokes Wild West imagery due in part to the number of outlaws who preyed on coin shipments. Possessing rare coins made of gold or silver mined from the Comstock Lode is what collectors dream about today.

The Denver Mint was established after the discovery of Colorado gold in 1858 but it didn’t strike its first coin until 1906. The Civil War broke out in 1862 and prevented its opening. Then it languished through the silver discovery near Leadville in the 1870’s. Slowly law and order took hold of the American West and the city of Denver grew steadily. Finally, construction on the building began in Feb. 1895. It was a massive three story structure with over a 100 rooms. The first coins were struck in Feb. 1906 and that first year the mint produced 167 million gold and silver coins. The Denver Mint quickly became the world’s busiest coining establishment. In 1934, the mint took on the role of becoming a government gold bullion depository. Billions of dollars worth of gold was transferred from the San Francisco Mint to Denver because it was a more secure location. The Denver Mint is still in operation today and in 2006 alone, struck more than 7.72 billion coins.

The West Point Mint is located on the grounds of the West Point Academy and is the most secure of all mints with over 4,000 cadets guarding it. It’s been in operation since 1988 to the present although it produced secret coins in 1983 that bore no mint mark. I sense another story here. It became a full-fledged government mint in 1988. It is the sole establishment for the production of American Eagle proofs, uncirculated silver, gold and platinum bullion coins, and all gold commemoratives. Each coin carries the distinctive “W” mint mark.

So you can see how history shaped these mints and our money.  Are you a serious coin collector, a casual one, or someone who just likes to spend it? And are you going to spend less or more this Christmas?

I sure hope Santa brings me a few new coins (hint, hint) to add to my collection.

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!
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29 thoughts on “Show Me the Money!”

  1. Do you collect coins from other countries? I have some Germany coins (Euros) I brought back from Germany (when I went there in 2005) that I’m willing to send to you if you want them… 🙂 If your interested just e-mail me.

  2. WOW-I had no idea all those mints even existed and I have never heard of a gold rush in North Carolina either!!

    It’s weird to think about where our money comes from, isnt it? I mean-we all concentrate on having money and spending money-but most of us never stop to think about where it was made, who made it ….

    I’ll be crossing my fingers for you-that Santa might read this and that your stocking will be quite heavy on Christmas morning! 😉

  3. What an excellent post, Linda. I am a coin collector, too.

    I collect:
    – Cdn circulating coins
    – Cdn collector’s coins
    – US state quarters
    – US circulating coins
    – world coins that contain:
    – birds and animals
    – tall ships
    – momma and baby birds and animals
    – momma and baby humans
    – Cdn trade dollars/municipal coins

    Plus, I’m working on a display for the spring coin show here with the theme ‘motherhood’. So far my display includes:
    – US Sacacegewa (this inspired my display)
    – Egypt – FAO – Pharoah nursing baby
    – Poland – breastfeeding coin
    – Turkey – FAO – mother breastfeeding
    – France – mother protecting child (1916)
    – Latvia – mother and baby
    The centrepiece of the display is a 3.5 inch medallion from Portugal with a carved scene depicting King Solomon’s decision. It shows King Solomon holding a baby by one leg in the air while one mother weeps and the other laughs.

    My next display will be Motherhood in the animal kingdom.

    And how do we know what you want if you don’t tell us what you collect?

    Yuck – I love this topic but I have to leave soon to drive teen into city for a 2 tooth extraction in prep for braces.

  4. Hi Danielle!

    Oh my goodness, you’re so sweet! I can’t believe you want to play Santa this early. But I don’t collect foreign coins. My collection only includes coins from the U.S.

    Why don’t you start your own coin collection? It’s easy. Just start hoarding your change. 🙂

    Hope you have a great day!

  5. Hi Pamela,

    That St. Gauden $20 gold piece is gorgeous! It’s just a little bit too pricey for my pocket book right now. But, believe me I sure wouldn’t turn it down if it landed in my stocking this year!

    Do you collect coins or just spend ’em? 🙂

  6. Hi Melissa!!

    Are your eyes still blurry from reading until the midnight hour? lol Once reading gets a hold on you, it’s hard to satisfy the craving. We’re like alcoholics. 🙂

    I’m glad I could broaden your knowledge this morning. I confess I didn’t know anything either about gold rushes in NC and Georgia. Just shows we’re never too old to find out new things. I may have to research those a little more and maybe set a story there. I love history!

    Thank you for your wishes that Santa will deliver some special coins this year. Maybe between the two of us he’ll listen. 🙂

  7. I am not a coin collector but I do have a few old coins. I have a silver dollar that I receive for not missing any days of school in the first grade. It is dated 1886, so I have had it for about 47 years. There is just a few old coins here not many. I collect thimbles from different places but have just got started with this so I don’t have many. I do love them though.

  8. Hi Linda,
    My father was a coin collector and investor. I knew all about those lovely coins, saw them every day. He taught me a great deal about them, half of which I can’t recall. But I know that Philadelphia coins don’t mark their initial, but Denver and San Francisco do. The D and S on our pennies relate to that, but for some reason I thought S stood for Sacramento. I have some beautiful silver dollars from his collection.

    Beautiful blog, loved the pics of the old mints!

  9. Hi Anita Mae!

    I hope your teen’s dentist appointment goes well. Teeth extractions make me cringe. I hate getting teeth pulled. Lots of pain.

    I see you’re a fellow (very serious) coin collector. My heavens! You’re into everything. I think that’s great. I’d love to see your display for the Spring coin show. That’s something. Love your theme. Images of mothers with their children touch people. You’ll get a lot of comments.

    What I collect…
    – Morgan silver dollars (I’d love to find one with a CC mint mark that I can afford.) 🙂

    – I’ve just finished my state quarter collection with the recent addition of Hawaii.

    – The gold Presidential dollars

    – The Sacagawea dollars

    – Susan B. Anthony dollars

    – John F. Kennedy half dollars

    – Eisenhower dollars

    – Franklin half dollars

    – Liberty Walking half dollars

    – Dimes and nickels (the early ones)

    And there’s a few more like the two-cent pieces, the nickel three-cent pieces, the two dollar bills, and commemorative coins.

    Thank you for asking. You’re a sweetheart.

    Take care of that teen and have a great day. 🙂

  10. Hi Quilt Lady,

    I hear collecting thimbles is as addicting as collecting coins. I’ll bet you have a great collection. I’ve seen some beautiful ones in museums and can see the attraction. But, one would expect as “quilt lady” to collect thimbles. You evidently sew a lot.

    Hold onto that 1886 silver dollar. It’s neat that they gave it to you for perfect attendance! I’ve never heard of schools doing that.

    Have a wonderful day!

  11. Hi Charlene,

    Glad you can relate to my blog. I imagine your dad has an extensive coin collection. I’d love to see it. I like seeing the various things that interests a person. Hey, maybe one day you’ll take up collecting too. You never know.

    Some of us are collectors and some are spenders. You might fall into the spender category. lol I’m certainly a spender to some extent. And my teenage granddaughter can’t save a penny if her life depended on it. Money just burns a hole clean through her pocket. 🙂

    Glad you liked the pix of some of the mints. I had more but couldn’t fit them all in. I think it’s interesting to see how sturdy they built those buildings.

    Wishing you an inspirational day!

  12. Linda. . . Fascinating post and makes me want to start collecting coins. I do love Morgan Silver Dollars and at one time started collecting the state quarters. Let it lapse but now I’m inspired to start again.

  13. Hi Linda! What great info. I had no idea the Trail of Tears resulted from a lust for gold! Wow.

    Or..that Latin American coins were minted here. Or even that there had been so many mints.

    I mostly saved a few coins as souvenirs from my travels to other lands, but hubby has a few collector ones. It’s not a regular hobby though.

    As for me…just a look at my savings account lately shows how much I like to shop. But I am reining myself in a lot this holiday season: our daughter got engaged at Thanksgiving and that means a wedding to pay for.

    And does anybody know why it’s called mint? Reminds me of candy. Now, I KNOW I could look it up but I thought I’d toss this out there 🙂

  14. Linda, I had no idea about the history of all these mints. It’s fascinating, and also very handy about something I’m researching on San Francisco, so thank you! I can imagine the security surrounding some of these places. Thimbles sounds really neat to collect, too, and Anita Mae’s motherhood themes.

    I collected coins a little bit when I was younger but gave most of them to my younger brother who was a more avid collector. I think the only thing I collect now are lots of books, LOL!

    Thanks for the interesting post!

  15. Hi Pat!

    I’m glad you enjoyed my post and I hope I’ve inspired you to start collecting coins again. The Morgan Silver Dollars is a good place to get going. You can find many for less than $100. I just love holding them in my hands and imagining whose pockets they might have been in at one time. If only they could talk! I’m sure they could tell us unbelievable stories.

    Have a great day!

  16. Hi Tanya,

    Congratulations on your daughter’s upcoming wedding! That’s exciting. Yes, you definitely have to save for that. 🙂

    To answer your question…I think the word “mint” came from the Latin word “moneta” that means coined money.

    I’m glad you found some things you didn’t know in my blog. That’s always my intention. Actually, I learned about the gold rush in NC and Georgia from researching this blog. I didn’t know anything about that. It’d make some good information to put in a book.

  17. Hi Kate,

    Glad you stopped by. And I’m thrilled that you can use some of the information about the San Francisco mint! I love when I can help someone.

    Yes, the security was pretty enormous. I read how they made the mint workers weigh each morning when they came to work and again when they left at night. They also made them turn their pockets inside out. But, despite all the measures there were some thefts. A worker in the Denver mint got out with some gold and was burying it in his backyard when he was arrested. It must be sheer torture to look at that gold all day and have it at your fingertips.

    Collecting books is an excellent choice. I have a pretty big book collection too. 🙂

  18. The ony coins I have collected are the state quarters.
    I am spending a lot less this Christmas, as all have agreed to buy for the children only, and there are only two.

  19. Hi Estella!

    Thanks for stopping by to comment. I loved collecting the state quarters and was sad to have that series finally end. I loved seeing each new one and how they designed their quarter. And now you have a completed collection. Congratulations!

    I don’t blame you for spending less this Christmas. With the economy the way it is, it only makes sense. I’m going to spend less also. Besides, what good is it if you have to go in debt up to your eyeballs? Most of the gifts we buy get returned anyway.

    Have a nice evening!

  20. Hi, Linda,

    I had never heard of some of the mints you mentioned! Also several of the “gold rushes”
    you listed were new to me!

    Pat Cochran

  21. I sort of do collect coins… i collected the 50 states coins and the only one I have left that I need is Hawaii…. or is it Alaska? hmm I can’t remember but it’s one of those… And of course I have the coins from Germany but I have a bunch… lol

  22. Hi LInda!

    Fascinating! I’m not really a coin collector, but my father was, although our family seems to have “lost” his collection.

    I had a neighbor who used to give all of us kids a silver dollar for Christmas — interestinly, I still have those. : )

    Great post, Linda.

  23. I’m not a serious collector but I do have some coins squirreled away – silver dollars, kennedy half dollars,some miscellanous older coins. My husband has an uncle who seriously collects coins and every year he gives my two daughters a mint collection of coins for the year.

  24. :::WHEW::: Something I actually don’t collect! Oh, I have some old coins and a dozen sets of quarters, but it’s not an active pursuit.

    Is the photograph taken in your home, Linda?

  25. WOW! Wonderful information, Linda!! I don’t collect coins, but I do have some silver dollars from years ago when my grandparents lived in Reno and it was always exciting to get silver dollars from them *lol* Also have a couple two dollar bills from another grandma 😉 That’s as far as money collecting has gone…all the rest seems slip through my fingers 😉

  26. Cheryl, no the photo wasn’t taken in my home. I took it when I went to the museum where I took the one of the tumbleweed Christmas tree.

    I remember that you’re an avid collector of tons of things, but I guess money is not one. It’s more fun for some people to spend it. lol

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