To establish a mint in America, it took a revolution and an act of Congress.
In the mid-1600s, currency in America was scarce and colonists unsuccessfully petitioned King Charles I of England to create their own mint. When Civil War broke out and England ousted the king in 1649, Boston citizens took advantage of the lull in leadership and created their own currency—the Pine Tree Shilling—minted in 1652. Even as a new king was seated in 1667, Bostonians continued to secretly make their shilling.
It wasn’t until the American Revolution ended that Americans were able to freely create their own currency. Unfortunately, each state was producing its own unique money, which led to widespread monetary confusion. In 1775, North Carolina alone had 17 different forms of money.
Finally in 1782, Robert Morris, who headed America’s newly formed finance department, presented Congress with a plan for their new country’s coins. Congress embraced the idea and instructed Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton to create a plan for a national mint. Ten years later, on April 2, 1792, President George Washington approved the plan.
The Mint, built in Philadelphia, was the first federal structure erected in the United States under the Constitution. In March 1793, 11,178 copper U.S. cents rolled out of the Mint with a value of $111.78. Gold and silver coins soon would follow.
Today, the United States Mint, which makes more coins and medals than any other mint in the world, operates six facilities: its headquarters in Washington, D.C., and mints in Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, West Point, N.Y., and the U.S. Bullion Depository in Fort Knox, Ky. The U.S. Mint produces billions of regular and commemorative coins, including coins for other countries, and medals of great honor and distinction. On a typical day, the U.S. Mint produces 30 million coins worth about $1 million.
Free tours are offered at both the Philadelphia and Denver mints, where curious visitors can see firsthand how coins are made and learn the amazing history of the U.S. Mint.
Visit www.usmint.gov to learn more.