A medal honoring the San Franscisco Mint building that operated from 1874 through 1937 and was known as "The Granite Lady."

History Of The San Francisco Mint, The “S” Mintmark On Coins, And Rare S-Mint Coins Worth Money!

by Joshua

Gold Coins, Mintmarks, U.S. Mint

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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.

During the Gold Rush era, there became a need for minting coins. The San Francisco Mint was created to meet this need in 1854.

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.

The old San Francisco Mint building - the second of three U.S. Mint facilities located in San Francisco. This one is nicknamed "The Granite Lady."

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.

This is the new (current) San Francisco Mint building.

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.

Why not?

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:

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:

This is a medal honoring the San Francisco Mint building that operated from 1874 through 1937 and was known as "The Granite Lady."

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.

While the Philadelphia Mint and Denver Mint offer public tours of those facilities, there are currently no public tours of the San Francisco Mint.

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.

READ NEXT: Fun Facts About The United States Mint

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