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United States Mints
 
When the U.S. Congress created a unique U.S. coinage in 1792, it also established
the United States Mint to strike the coins.  The original U.S. Mint was built in Philadelphia, which was the national capital.  There were only 14 states when the
Mint was authorized, and all states were concentrated on the east coast.  As a
result, there was little thought given to the need for additional Mints as the nation expanded south and west.  Prior to 1980, coins from Philadelphia did not have
a Mint mark;  since 1980, coins other than the Penny have the “P” Mint mark. 
 
 
Distribution of coinage was often a problem in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. 
Coins circulated widely in large cities such as Philadelphia, New York, and
Boston, but coins were often in short supply in smaller towns and rural areas. 
In 1838, Congress decided to expand the range of the U.S. Mint by authorizing
three branches in the south.  The decision was hastened by the discovery of gold
in Dahlonega, Georgia, that spurred America’s first “gold rush.”  Rather than
transport the gold back to Philadelphia, a branch of the U.S. Mint was built in
Dahlonega to turn the gold into gold coins.  Mints were also opened in New
Orleans and Charlotte, North Carolina.  To distinguish coins struck at the branch
Mints from those struck in Philadelphia, the “D” Mint mark was added to coins
from Dahlonega, “C” to coins from Charlotte, and “O” to coins from New Orleans.  All three branch Mints closed in 1861 at the start of the Civil War, although
New Orleans opened again from 1879 to 1909.
 
 
A similar situation took place in California after the “gold rush” in 1849.  The
U.S. Mint opened the San Francisco Mint in 1854 so that it would not need to t
ransport gold back to Philadelphia.  The San Francisco Mint has been in operation
since 1854, although today it strikes only Proof coins.  Coins struck in San Francisco have the “S” Mint mark.  Following the discovery of the Comstock Lode in Nevada,
the U.S. Mint opened another branch in Carson City, Nevada.  The Comstock
Lode was the largest silver strike in U.S. history, and it provided the silver for U.S. coinage for many decades.  The Carson City Mint opened in 1870 with the intent
of having it strike large quantities of silver coins.  Ironically, it struck very few
silver coins and it closed in 1893 when the Comstock Lode ran out of silver. 
Coins struck in Carson City have the “CC” Mint mark.
 
 
The final two branches of the U.S. Mint were opened in the 20th century.  The
U.S. Mint in Denver opened in 1906 to help with the distribution of coins in the
rapidly-growing west.  It uses the “D” Mint mark.  The West Point Assay Office in
New York struck a few coins on an emergency basis in the 1970’s and 1980’s,
although no Mint mark was used on these coins.  The facility was officially
designated a branch of the U.S. Mint in 1988, although the West Point Mint now
produces only bullion and commemorative coins.  All coins struck at the
West Point Mint bear the “W” Mint mark.