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The San Francisco Mint is the oldest branch of the United States Mint still actively producing coins.
The San Francisco Mint was born from a need for minting coins during the Gold Rush era during the middle of the 19th century.
Even after the San Francisco gold stopped flowing long ago as it once had during the heyday of the Gold Rush, the San Francisco Mint still has an important role in striking millions of coins each year for circulation and collectors.
The Historic Early San Francisco Mints
The San Francisco Mint was approved by United States Congress in 1852, with the first facility opening in 1854.
Coins from the San Francisco Mint carry an “S” mintmark.
This first San Francisco Mint played a huge role in striking gold coins during the waning years of the California Gold Rush — which centered in and around the San Francisco area from the late 1840s into the 1850s.
Even as the Gold Rush subsided as the 1850s turned into the 1860s, the population growth in San Francisco and throughout the West only continued as more and more people moved to the region. The sunshine, cheap land, and booming economy drew thousands — and eventually millions — to the Pacific coast while silver and gold discoveries closer to the Rocky Mountains instigated population booms throughout the Southwest.
NOTE: This helped lead to the eventual opening of a mint in Carson City, Nevada, not far from productive silver mines in that area.
Meanwhile, there was an ever pressing need to expand production capacity at the San Francisco Mint. So, in 1874, just 20 years after establishing at its first location, the San Francisco Mint moved to its second building.
This second facility wasn’t just any old building, though. It was one of the grandest landmarks in all of San Francisco! The stately two-story building became known as “The Granite Lady,” referring to its granite basement designed to prevent break-ins where its vaults were located.
So sturdy did The Granite Lady prove itself that it was one of the few buildings that survived the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. The catastrophic temblor was so powerful that nearly the entire city was destroyed by the quaking — which set off massive fires that burned many of the things left in the rubble of the earthquake.
The San Francisco Mint went on to produce hundreds of millions of coins before being replaced by a third facility.
The Current San Francisco Mint
The current San Francisco Mint opened in 1937.
It would continue producing coins until 1955. In that year, coining operations paused at the San Francisco Mint — which was later officially converted into a United States assay office in 1962.
A massive coin shortage led the San Francisco Mint to strike coins again in 1965. However, it’s important to note that these mid-1960s San Francisco Mint coins do not carry an “S” mintmark.
It was part of an initiative by the U.S. Mint at the time to temporarily withhold placing mintmarks on coins in order to mitigate coin-collecting activity and help replenish the nation’s starved supply of circulating coins.
The San Francisco Mint resumed to placing mintmarks on coins again in 1968 — the year that facility was awarded the prestigious honor of producing United States Mint proof sets. (U.S. Mint proof sets were traditionally manufactured at the Philadelphia Mint.)
With the relocation of most proof production to San Francisco in 1968, this opened up an entirely new era in modern American coin collecting — not to mention also brought new life to San Francisco Mint!
Also in 1968, the San Francisco Mint began a run of producing mintmarked circulating coinage again for the first time since 1955.
Among the circulating coins the San Francisco Mint struck during the latter 20th century are:
- Lincoln cents (1968-S through 1974-S)
- Jefferson nickels (1968-S through 1970-S)
- Susan B. Anthony dollars (1979-S through 1981-S)
The San Francisco Mint was officially promoted from its assay office status to once again being classified as a mint in 1988 — where it once again began producing mintmarked circulating coins. In addition, the San Francisco Mint continues to strike a wide range of collectible coins, as well as bullion coins.
Rare San Francisco Mint Coins Worth Money
Some of the rarest and most valuable coins of the late-19th century through the 20th century have come from the San Francisco Mint!
Here’s a sampling of these rare “S” mint coins:
- 1909-S Indian Head penny — $350+
- 1909-S Lincoln penny — $100
- 1909-S VDB Lincoln penny — $700+
- 1931-S Lincoln penny — $50+
- 1943-S bronze Lincoln penny — $125,000+
- 1969-S doubled die Lincoln penny — $25,000+
- 1870-S Liberty Seated half dime — $2,000,000+
- 1894-S Barber dime — $1,000,000+
- 1896-S Barber quarter — $650+
- 1901-S Barber quarter — $3,500+
- 1913-S Barber quarter — $1,500+
- 1918/7 Standing Liberty quarter — $2,000+
- 1932-S Washington quarter — $125+
- 1878-S Liberty Seated half dollar — $35,000+
- 1870-S Liberty Seated dollar — $250,000+
- 1893-S Morgan dollar — $5,000+
- 1895-S Morgan dollar — $700+
- 1903-S Morgan dollar — $300+
- 1870-S Indian Princess $3 — $5,000,000+
- 1864-S Liberty Head half eagle — $20,000+
- 1920-S Indian Head eagle — $20,000+
- 1920-S Saint-Gaudens double eagle — $20,000+
Can You Visit The San Francisco Mint Today?
So many people want to visit the San Francisco Mint to see how coins are made there.
But there’s still a way to see “a” San Francisco Mint. A former mint, anyway…
You can see the second San Francisco Mint!
The Granite Lady offers tours of the building. In fact, you can do much more than simply tour The Granite Lady — you can even hold events there. (Imagine getting married at The Granite Lady in San Francisco!)
Before you visit, be sure to call ahead to make sure the old mint building in San Francisco is open and offering tours on the day you plan to be there. You can contact them online or by phone at (415) 886-1390. If you want to plug The Granite Lady old mint in San Francisco into your GPS, the address is 88 5th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103.
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I’m the Coin Editor here at TheFunTimesGuide. My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I’m a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I’m also the editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I’ve contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I’ve authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins (many of them with over 50K shares), and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!