Coin Collecting

US Mint Sets
Click for Mint Set Pricing Guide

Official Mint Sets are specially packaged by the government for sale to collectors. They contain uncirculated specimens of each year coins for every denomination issued from each mint. Unlike the Proof Sets, these are normal coins intended for circulation and are not minted with any special consideration for quality. Coins struck only as Proofs are not included.

Uncirculated sets sold by the Treasury from 1947 through 1958 contain two examples of each regular issue coin. These were packaged in card-board holders that did not protect the coins from tarnish. Nicely preserved early sets generally command a 10 to 20 per cent premium above listed values. No official mint sets were produced in 1950, 1982, or 1983.

Since 1959 sets have been sealed in a protective plastic envelope. In 1965, 1966 and 1967, Special Mint Sets of higher than normal quality were made as a substitute for Proof Sets which were not made during that period. Similar specimen sets dated 1964 are reported to exist. The 1966 and 1967 sets were packaged in hard plastic holders.

Privately assembled mint sets, and souvenir sets produced for sale at the Philadelphia or Denver Mints, or for special occasions, are valued according to the individual pieces thay contain.

"The Congress shall have the Power . . . To Coin Money."
(Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 8.)

When the framers of the U.S. Constitution created a new government for their untried Republic, they realized the critical need for a respected monetary system. Soon after the Constitution's ratification, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton personally prepared plans for a national Mint. On April 2, 1792, Congress passed The Coinage Act, which created the Mint and authorized construction of a Mint building in the nation's capitol, Philadelphia. This was the first federal building erected under the Constitution.

President George Washington appointed Philadelphian David Rittenhouse, a leading American scientist, as the first Director of the Mint. Under Rittenhouse, the Mint produced its first circulating coins -- 11,178 copper cents, which were delivered in March 1793. Soon after, the Mint began issuing gold and silver coins as well. President Washington, who lived only a few blocks from the new Mint, is believed to have donated some of his own silver for minting.

Four US Mint facilities are presently striking coins for circulation in the United States– The Philadelphia Mint, the Denver Mint, the San Francisco Mint, and and the newest US Mint in West Point, New York. 

Four other historic US Mint facilities are long-closed and almost forgotten except by serious US coin collectors who highly prize these official mints located in the Old South before the Civil War.

The first Southern branch mint opened in New Orleans in 1838.  Later, as gold was discovered in Georgia, official branches of the US Mint were opened in Charlotte, North Carolina and Dahlonega, Georgia.

US Mint Marks
The coins of each branch of the US Mint are identified by a small letter on the coins called "mint marks."  These marks date back to ancient Greece and Rome.  Through the Act of March 3, 1835, the Director of the Mint set regulations to identify the coins issued from each US Mint branch.  This central control made exact standards of production and responsibility for coinage possible.

Most rare coins stayed close to the US Mint where they were minted.  San Francisco and Carson City coins circulated on Western Frontiers and seldom appeared back East, while Philadelphia and New Orleans coins stayed to the east.  Collectors soon realized that it was a rare occasion when they found coins "out of region."

United States Mint - Philadelphia
Congress enacted legislation in 1792 that authorized the newly formed United States of America to mint its own currency.

The Philadelphia Mint is known as the "mother mint" and for decades was the only U.S. Mint facility. For that reason, the coins minted there exhibited no "mint mark." In 1838 the New Orleans Mint was opened to serve the Southern States and began the tradition of branch mints putting their own unique "mint mark" on each of their coins.

West Point Mint - New York
The West Point Bullion Depository was erected in 1937 as a storage facility for silver bullion and was nicknamed "The Fort Knox of Silver."  In 1988, the US government approved the most recent branch mint at West Point, N.Y. to assist in striking modern gold and silver issues with the "W" mint mark including various Commemoratives and  Bullion Coins.

The Denver Mint 1906 to Present Day

The Denver Mint in the Old West Days has had a fascinating turn-of-the-century history. The Colorado gold finds of 1858 brought miners by the thousands to the Rocky Mountains. By this time, the 1830's California Gold Rush was long over.

Miners moved on to the mountains west of Denver where mining towns like Central City, Idaho Springs, and Black Hawk grew up quickly. The influx of a growing population created local demand for a coinage facility.

During the days of wagon trains and covered wagons it was nearly impossible to move heavy gold coins and silver coins from the San Francisco or New Orleans Mints to Colorado.

The private banking firm of Clark, Gruber & Company first established an assay office and private mint in Denver in 1860. They produced sizeable quantities of all four sizes of gold coins to serve the public's needs.

It wasn't until February of 1895 that Congress finally established a branch of the United States Mint in Denver. By 1906, coin presses were striking coins of various sizes for release to the American public. The raw gold and silver mostly came from the nearby Cripple Creek mining district.

From 1906 till 1931, the Denver Mint produced a variety of gold coins. Primarily $20 gold double-eagles were minted for banking settlements and international transactions.

Quarter Eagles were minted for only three years, half eagles and eagles for just seven years while the Double Eagles were struck for fifteen years. There are several rare coin and scarce coin dates of Denver Mint gold coins and they have always been popular with serious coin collecting collectors. Today, the Denver Mint branch of the US mint continues to be one of the world's major producers of official legal tender coins.

San Francisco Mint - The Historic "S" Mint Coins

The San Francisco Mint was born out of the need for a Western Frontier Mint when in January of 1848, gold flakes were discovered at Sutter's Mill triggering one of the most important chapters in U.S. History— The California Gold Rush! 

Within a few years, the gold mines out West produced an abundance of gold bullion, gold nuggets, and gold dust. Yet, there was an acute shortage of circulating legal tender gold coins in the Wild West Frontier. To relieve the problem, Congress authorized the establishment of the San Francisco Mint, a branch US Mint in the California Territory, to strike the much needed gold coins and silver dollars.

San Francisco was chosen as the site of the new branch of the U.S. Mint. Due to its proximity to the Gold Rush district, it was easy to move gold and silver to the mint. The San Francisco Mint began operation in 1854.

The San Francisco Mint production was halted temporarily during the devastating San Francisco earthquake of 1906. The solid construction withheld the earthquake and firestorm that followed. It was the only financial institution that was able to operate immediately after the earthquake and became the treasury for the disaster relief funds. Banking services were conducted there, too. The San Francisco Mint continued coining until 1937 when it outgrew this facility and moved to a new, more modern one in San Francisco. 

Today, the San Francisco Mint is the United State Mint famous for many rare, legendary issues. Some dates are recognized as being elusive, scarce, or rare including one of the great American coin rarities, the 1870-S $3 piece valued today at well over one million dollars.

All coins struck at the San Francisco Mint are distinguished by the "S" Mint Mark. 

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