The U.S. Mint turned 225 years old in the year 2017.
The occasion was marked by several celebrations honoring the passage of the United States Coinage Act of 1792, which established the first federal U.S. Mint in the nation’s then-capital city of Philadelphia.
Historians love the United States Mint because there are so many cool things about this national landmark to discover and explore!
Here are 8 amazing facts you probably didn’t know about the U.S. Mint:
#1 – There Have Been 8 Different U.S. Mint Locations Since 1792
Many people are familiar with the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco, but did you know the Mint has operated in 8 different locations since 1792?
Here’s an alphabetical rundown of all of the various Mint locations, along with their years of operation and respective mintmarks:
- C Mintmark – Charlotte, North Carolina (operated from 1838 through 1861 and struck only gold coins)
- CC Mintmark – Carson City, Nevada (in operation from 1870 through 1893 and made only gold and silver coins)
- D Mintmark – Dahlonega, Georgia (operated from 1838 through 1861 and it produced gold coins only)
- D Mintmark – Denver, Colorado (has operated since 1906)
TIP: You can distinguish Dahlonega “D” coins from Denver “D” coins merely by looking at the date on the coin. D mintmark coins dated from before 1906 are from Dahlonega.
- O Mintmark – New Orleans, Louisiana (operated from 1838 through 1861 and again from 1879 until 1909, making only gold and silver coins)
- P Mintmark – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (in operation since 1792)
NOTE: The Philadelphia Mint didn’t use the “P” mintmark for the first time until 1942 and wouldn’t use it regularly until after 1978.
- S Mintmark – San Francisco, California (in operation since 1854 and from 1968 on has primarily struck only proof coins and other special-issue coinage)
- W Mintmark – West Point, New York (the West Point Mint was built in 1937, but didn’t strike the first “W” mintmark coin until 1984)
#2 – Philadelphia Has Had 4 Different Mints
As the nation has grown since 1792, so too have operations at the U.S. Mint.
When it was first established, the U.S. Mint operated out of a handful of small buildings in Philadelphia at the corner of 7th Street and Arch Street — in a section of Philadelphia now known as Center City.
The site sits only a few blocks from where the current Philadelphia Mint stands today.
This first Mint operated until 1833, when operations moved to a larger facility at the corner of Chestnut and Juniper Streets. The stately facility was known as “The Grecian Temple.”
In 1901, the Mint moved to its third location. The third Philadelphia Mint was located at 1700 Spring Garden Street and operated there until 1969. The massive building, which consumes almost an entire city block, now houses the Community College of Philadelphia.
The current Philadelphia Mint facility opened in 1969 as the world’s largest mint facility. Nearly 2 million coins are struck there each hour and billions on an annual basis!
It’s a pretty incredible sight to see thousands upon thousands of coins being made each minute — so it’s no wonder thousands tour the Philadelphia Mint each year.
#3 – The U.S. Mint Was The First Federal Building
Believe it or not, the first federally funded building wasn’t the White House, the Capitol Building, or even the Lincoln Memorial. It was the United States Mint!
When Congress passed Mint Act on April 2, 1792, it also called for funds to construct the Mint buildings. In doing so, Congress authorized construction of the first federally funded United States building erected under the United States Constitution.
The Mint Act also set the annual salary of the Mint Director at $2,000.
#4 – The Mint’s First Guard Dog Cost $3
On January 6, 1793, officials with the United States Mint bought a guard dog for $3 — an amount nearly triple what the typical person earned in a day back then.
Officials named the Mint Police Dog “Nero,” and the canine cop would make rounds with night watchmen once an hour to ensure the property was criminal-free.
Only the night watchman was allowed to feed Nero because they didn’t want the guard dog getting friendly with other people, losing his protective edge.
#5 – Peter The Eagle Was The U.S. Mint’s “Pet” Bird
It was literally a zoo back in the early days at the United States Mint.
In addition to Nero the Police Dog, there was another monitor at the Mint providing eyes in the sky: Peter the Eagle.
Back when bald eagles were still regularly flying around in Philadelphia, one of them began hanging around the Mint during the evening. Mint employees named him Peter, and the friendly eagle eventually found his way inside the Mint buildings.
One unfortunate day, Peter rested on a coining press that suddenly started working. One of his wings was caught in a flywheel and he was severely damaged — soon dying due to the extent of his injuries.
He was expertly mounted, and his body perched in a display where he continues watching over visitors at the current Mint facility.
#6 – The U.S. Mint Once Used Horsepower To Make Coins
Speaking of animals, horses and oxen also once figured prominently into the Mint’s daily operations.
Long before modern automation made it possible to strike nearly 2 million coins per hour, horses and oxen helped humans strike coins.
Horse-powered coin presses were par for the course in the late 1700s and early 1800s, but horsepower soon gave way to steam power.
By the 1830s, efficient steam-powered coin presses were online. They were driven by motors whose operating capacity was measured in, you guessed it, horsepower units.
#7 – The U.S. Mint’s First Batch of Coins Totaled $111.78
The early Mint made lots of copper coins, and among these were one-cent pieces called large cents.
These so-called large cents measure nearly as wide in diameter as a modern-day half dollar.
Large cents were also among the very first coins to officially enter circulation.
The Mint produced a batch of 11,178 large cents (totaling $111.78) and released them to the masses in March 1793.
NOTE: Large cents were the first U.S. Mint coins to enter circulation, but they weren’t the first made. That credit goes to the silver half disme — which was produced, in part, by using silver from George and Martha Washington’s persona silverware collection.
#8 – U.S. Mint Tours On Rainy Days Were Once Prohibited
Today, the Philadelphia Mint offers tours during virtually any kind of weather conditions — including hail, sleet, and snow.
But there was once a time when visitors were prohibited from touring the Mint during the rain!
Check out these rules about Mint visitors from 1825:
Visitors may be admitted by permission of an officer, to see the various operations of the Mint on all working days except Saturdays and rainy days.
More About The United States Mint
In addition to the links I’ve included above, here are some other resources to help you learn more about the U.S. Mint:
- Guide To The History Of U.S. Coinage
- 5 Crazy Facts About Money You May Not Know
- U.S. Mint History
- 12 Interesting Facts About American Coins