It's the 18th century, and the colonies are breaking free from England. A new country! But what about money? How can they pay for their war against England?
In 1775, John Hancock suggests that Congress issue bills of credit. People could exchange these paper notes for silver Spanish milled dollars after the war.
Colonists already used lots of currencies. But if the colonies win, should they use British pounds after the war? Spanish milled dollars?…Or invent a whole new currency?
Congress set the other coins' values to the Spanish milled dollar. Jefferson says that should be our new nation's money, but divided into 100 parts. In 1785, Congress invents a new dollar currency and decides which metals the coins will be made from. Now they just need someone to make them!
Select any of the date ranges or individual years below to learn about the Mint's history, or jump to one of these eras:
Congress passes the Coinage Act, creating the Bureau of the Mint to make gold, silver, and copper coins. The United States Mint is born!
President George Washington appoints David Rittenhouse, scientist, as the first Director of the Mint. The Mint produces its first circulating coins: copper cents and half cents.
Dimes and half dimes are struck. Read the March 2003 Coin of the Month to learn more about the half dime. The silver probably comes from someone’s silverware (maybe George and Martha Washington’s). The coins are stamped on a hired machine kept in the owner’s basement, not on government property.
Construction begins on a Mint building in Philadelphia, the nation’s capital at the time.
The new Mint building opens in Philadelphia and coins are made there: cents and half cents. Harnessed horses power the coin-stamping machines.
A security system is installed: a watchdog costing 3 dollars.
The Mint is made an independent agency, no longer under the Department of State, but reporting directly to the President.
As the colonies did, the new United States begins making large silver peace medals.
These medals are given as signs of peace to American Indian chiefs and warriors. Lewis and Clark will use these medals on their trip. Read the April 2004 Coin of the Month to learn more.
A steam engine is first used for rolling out the metal sheets from which coins are cut.
Before this, the rolling machines were powered by oxen, horses, or men.
America’s first "gold rush" begins in Georgia.
Construction begins on the second Mint building in Philadelphia.
The first steam-powered coin press is put in place. Coins can now be made faster (about 100 coins per minute). Take a virtual tour to learn more. Also view the Minting Process Revealed to learn more about how coins are made.
When a man-powered screw press was used, five men could make 25 coins a minute.
Three new Mint branches open in Southern states: Louisiana (New Orleans was a large port), Georgia, and North Carolina (gold was mined in the area). Charlotte (NC) and Dahlonega (GA) make gold coins; New Orleans (LA) makes both gold and silver coins.
Gold is found in California.
The California Gold Rush takes off the following year.
An assay office opens in San Francisco where Gold Rush miners can have their gold tested and weighed. It eventually becomes the San Francisco Mint.
An assay office opens on Wall Street in New York City to redeem paper money for metal and to receive and pay out gold and silver bullion. It will operate for more than 100 years.
Gold is found in Colorado. Visit the Time Machine to learn more about the Colorado Gold Rush.
Silver will be found in Nevada the following year.
Clark, Gruber & Co, a private bank and mint, opens in Denver.
Southern branches of the mint fall under control of the Confederate government during the Civil War.
The facilities at Charlotte and Dahlonega serve as assay offices during the war; New Orleans strikes a few coins, but then closes until after the war.
The Treasury Department, having bought Clark, Gruber & Co in Denver, remodels the building, which becomes an assay office (where gold and silver ore can be tested, weighed, and stamped as bullion).
A new Mint facility opens in Carson City, Nevada.
An assay office opens in Boise, Idaho.
The Mint moves its headquarters from Philadelphia to Washington, DC, and becomes a bureau of the Treasury Department, as it is today.
The San Francisco Mint moves to a newly-constructed building.
Made to look like an ancient Greek temple, the building will become known as the "Granite Lady."
The United States Mint begins making coins for foreign governments, the first of them struck for Venezuela dated 1876.
Through the early 1908s, coins will be struck for more than forty governments, including Hawaii before it becomes the 50th state.
The New Orleans Mint reopens as an assay office.
An assay office opens in Helena in the Territory of Montana.
The facility at Dahlonega, Georgia, is lost to fire.
The Mint at New Orleans begins making coins again.
An assay office opens in St. Louis, Missouri.
The first US commemorative coin is struck: the World’s Columbian Exposition half dollar. It features Christopher Columbus.
The United States Mint celebrates its 100th anniversary.
The Carson City Mint stops making coins but continues to assay metals and receive gold and silver deposits.
An assay office opens in Deadwood, South Dakota.
An assay office opens in Seattle, Washington.
The United States wins the Spanish-American War, liberating Cuba and gaining as territories Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippine Islands.
George Washington appears for the first time on an American coin: the Lafayette dollar. This is also the first commemorative dollar. The coin commemorates the erection of a monument to General Lafayette in Paris, France.
The United States officially accepts the gold standard, backing all its money with only gold instead of gold and silver.
The third Philadelphia Mint building opens, featuring "the best machinery to be had."
The Denver assay office (where gold is tested and weighed) becomes a mint (where coins are made).
Coinage begins at the new building in Denver. More than 167 million coins are made the first year.
Most of San Francisco is destroyed by a great earthquake and fires. The San Francisco Mint building serves as the city’s banking center during rebuilding. Visit the Time Machine to learn more about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
A new one-cent coin design features Abraham Lincoln on the 100th anniversary of his birth. It is the first circulating coin that shows a real person and a President of the United States. Read the February 2001 Coin of the Month to learn more about the Lincoln penny.
An assay office opens in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Mint at New Orleans closes.
The assay office in St. Louis closes.
The United States stops printing bills that can be exchanged for gold coins.
Congress buys 40,000 acres of land at Camp Knox, Kentucky, for a military training center.
A mint opens in Manila, the Philippines, a United States territory.
The United States prints bills that can be exchanged for gold bullion instead of gold coins.
The Peace Dollar is issued to commemorate peace between the United States, Germany, and Austria after World War I.
The Deadwood assay office in South Dakota closes.
The new quarter dollar depicts George Washington, his third coin appearance after the Lafayette dollar (1899) and American Independence Sesquicentennial half dollar (1926), but the first time on a circulating coin. View the Twenty-Five Cent Coin (Quarter) to learn more.
As one way to fight the Great Depression, people are no longer allowed to own gold. The Mint stops making gold coins; silver coins and certificates are used instead.
The assay offices close in Carson City, Boise, and Helena.
A new (third) building is constructed for the Mint in San Francisco. The building will open in 1937.
A bullion depository is built at Fort Knox to store gold in the form of bars (bullion).
The United States Bullion Depository (USBD) opens at Fort Knox, where its first shipment of gold is brought by railroad.
The West Point Bullion Depository, built to store silver, opens in New York. It will become known as "the Fort Knox of silver."
Thomas Jefferson’s portrait appears on the nickel (five-cent coin). Read the September 2003 Coin of the Month to learn more about the Jefferson Nickel.
The Mint at Manila closes.
The former Carson City Mint building reopens as the Nevada State History Museum.
The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are secretly stored in Fort Knox to keep them safe during World War II.
One-cent coins are made from steel for one year so copper can be used for war materials (World War II). Visit the Time Machine to learn more about the steel cent with the World War II Era.
An international conference decides that nations will base the value of their currencies not on the value of gold, but on the value of America’s dollar.
The American dollar becomes the world’s reserve currency.
The facility at Denver is expanded to meet the increasing demand for coins.
This construction, combined with other construction in 1935, more than doubles the space inside the building.
See the Ten-Cent (Dime) to learn more.
Soon after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death, his portrait appears on the dime, in line with his support for the March of Dimes®, a program that raises money for research to cure polio. Teachers, use the Teacher Feature Giving Back to help students learn more about the March of Dimes.
The San Francisco Mint temporarily stops making coins.
The assay office in Seattle, Washington, closes.
The wheat design on the back of the Lincoln cent is replaced with an image of the Lincoln Memorial. View the One-Cent Coin (Penny) to learn more.
Other countries lose faith in the dollar’s value and exchange their dollars for gold, causing US gold reserves to dwindle.
The federal government presents the New Orleans Mint building to the State of Louisiana.
The building becomes part of the Louisiana State Museum.
A law is passed that changes the Mint in San Francisco to an assay office.
Soon after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the Kennedy half dollar is minted. View the Fifty-Cent Coin (Half Dollar) to learn more.
Because of a silver shortage, silver becomes more valuable. The Treasury starts redeeming silver certificates for silver bullion, not silver dollars, and makes fewer silver coins.
The Coinage Act of 1965 removes the silver from circulating dimes and quarters and reduces the silver in half dollars. New coins are clad (sandwiched), using a mix of metals.
Under the Coinage Act of 1965, the assay office at San Francisco returns to striking coins (pennies).
Silver certificates are no longer exchangeable for silver bullion, but they are still legal tender.
The Philadelphia Mint moves to its fourth and largest facility.
The Denver facility tops production records by making 5 billion coins in one year.
The Bank Holding Company Act removes silver from the dollar and makes it clad cupronickel (copper and nickel mixed).
The first clad dollar coin features President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Read the July 2000 Coin of the Month to learn more about the Eisenhower Dollar.
Instead of being backed by its value in gold, our currency is only backed by our good reputation. The world stops using the American dollar as a standard. The price of gold goes way up.
The San Francisco Mint’s former building, the "Granite Lady," is partially restored and reopened as a museum.
Citizens are again allowed to own gold but not to use it as currency.
The San Francisco assay office stops making circulating coins except Susan B. Anthony dollars. This will continue through 1981.
Special designs are created for the 200th anniversary (bicentennial) of the American Revolution.
The designs are used on the backs of the dollar, half dollar, and quarter. The coins are dated 1776-1976, but they are first released in 1975 to ensure good circulation. View the Bicentennial Coins to learn more.
The Mint makes a dollar coin that shows Susan B. Anthony, the first woman who was a real person to appear on a circulating coin. (Queen Isabella had appeared in 1893, but on a commemorative coin.) Read the August 2000 Coin of the Month to learn more about the Susan B. Anthony Dollar.
Cents begin being made of copper-plated zinc instead of copper because of rising copper prices.
The New York assay office closes.
The West Point Bullion Depository strikes the first gold coin in 51 years (an Olympic commemorative coin). View the slideshow of Olympic Commemoratives.
Congress changes the name of the "Bureau of the Mint" to "the United States Mint."
The West Point Bullion Depository becomes an official United States Mint facility.
The status of the San Francisco assay office is changed back to that of a Mint.
The United States Mint celebrates its 200th anniversary.
The Mint strikes the first US coin made of platinum.
A law is passed that allows the Mint to make a dollar coin that shows Sacagawea. Sacagawea was a young Shoshone woman who helped Lewis and Clark on their expedition. Assemble a puzzle featuring the Sacagawea Golden Dollar while trying to beat the clock.
The Mint invites the public to help choose a design for the new dollar coin.
More than 300,000 people vote online.
The groundbreaking 50 State Quarters® Program begins, a 10-year program in which the quarter’s reverse design will be changed five times every year, once for each state in the Union. Visit the 50 State Quarters Program to learn more.
Twelve Sacagawea Golden Dollars made of 22-karat gold fly into space on the Space Shuttle Columbia. The twelve historic coins will later be stored at Fort Knox.
The United States Mint H.I.P. Pocket Change website, www.usmint.gov/kids, first goes online.
The facility at West Point begins being renovated and expanded.
The Sacagawea Golden Dollar begins to circulate.
The H.I.P. Pocket Change Web site is redesigned.
The United States Mint celebrates its 210th birthday.
The expansion and renovation of the building at West Point is completed.
The Artistic Infusion Program begins.
The program is designed to improve United States coins and medals. Artists are gathered from outside the Mint to create designs for selected coin and medal projects.
The design on the nickel changes for the first time in more than half a century through the Westward Journey Nickel Series™. Over a three-year period, designs feature Jefferson’s Peace Medal, a keelboat, a bison, the Pacific Ocean, and a sharper image of Monticello. Two new portraits of Thomas Jefferson on the front are also part of the series commemorating the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Visit the Nifty Nickels to learn more.
The Presidential $1 Coin Program begins with its first design, featuring George Washington. Four new designs will be released each year to honor all the presidents who have been deceased for at least two years. Four of the standard legends on American coins are moved to the coins’ edge. The Sacagawea Golden Dollar is still produced as well.
The 50 State Quarters® Program ends with the quarter for the 50th state, Hawaii.
The design on the back of the penny is changed four times to depict four periods in Abraham Lincoln’s life. Learn more with the 2009 Lincoln Cents.
A new program calls for six quarter reverse designs to honor the District of Columbia and the five United States Territories. Learn more with the 2009 Quarters.
The Sacagawea design from the Golden Dollar becomes part of the Native American $1 Coin Program.
Designs on the back of the coins portray contributions of Native Americans to the growth of the United States, one design per year. Some legends are moved to the coin’s edge, as with the Presidential $1 Coin Program. Learn more with the Native American $1 Coins.
A new program of circulating quarters begins.
The designs feature one national site from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five US territories for a total of 56 designs over more than 11 years. Learn more with the America the Beautiful Quarters® Program.
A Union Shield is chosen as the new "permanent" design for the back of the penny. Read the February 2010 Coin of the Month to learn more about the 2010 One-Cent Coin.
The United States Mint held a nationwide competition to determine the obverse design for the National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin.
Kids (13 and under) participated in the Kids' Baseball Coin Design Challenge.
On November 20, 2013 in Emancipation Hall at the U.S. Capitol, 25 tribes were awarded Congressional Gold Medals in recognition of the dedication and valor of Native American code talkers to the U.S. Armed Services during World War I and II. Another tribe also was recognized at the ceremony with the unveiling of its medal designs. View the Congressional Gold Medals and learn more about the program.