The name "West Point" reminds many people of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. But did you know that the town of West Point is also home to the United States Mint? In fact, the US Mint and the Academy are neighbors. The Mint at West Point stands on four acres of land that used to belong to the Academy under the Department of Defense.
But the United States Mint at West Point wasn't always a mint. In 1938, it was built to store silver, and that was its only job for many years as the "West Point Bullion Depository." A depository is like a storehouse, where coins are not made—like the bullion depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky. In fact, the West Point facility has been called "the Fort Knox of silver." But things do change, and change came to West Point as well.
At first, silver was always stored in the West Point Bullion Depository in the form of bullion—silver bars the shape of bricks. But changes began in 1970.
With all that minting going on, it was time for a name change. A law was passed in 1988 that changed this Bullion Depository into the nation's first new Mint facility in more than 100 years!
And then there was another "first" in 1997. The West Point facility struck collectible coins from platinum, making it the first Mint facility in the United States to make coins out of platinum.
In 2000, the West Point facility enjoyed another first: it struck the nation's first coin made from two metals. In such a "bimetallic" coin, the metals are not mixed together as an alloy, but one metal is used in the center of the coin and the other surrounds it. That ten-dollar coin, made of gold and platinum, honored the Library of Congress. You can read more about this collectible coin and see what it looked like by clicking here.
The United States Mint at West Point is still a depository, but it also makes bullion coins and commemorative coins. To keep all that gold, silver, and platinum safe, no tours are held. Only people who work in the building are allowed to enter it.
The main job of the United States Mint is to make sure the nation has enough coins to carry on its daily business. To meet the demand, the US Mint estimates how many coins it will need to make each year.
The demand was likely to rise as 1976 drew near. Why?
Because special quarters and half dollars were being created with bicentennial designs to celebrate the nation's 200th birthday in 1976. Many people would probably collect these coins, so the coins would no longer be spent (circulated). The nation would need more quarters and half dollars than usual, along with all of the other denominations in daily use. How could the United States Mint make so many more coins to meet the need?
The West Point Bullion Depository came to the rescue. The Depository began making pennies in 1973, which freed up machines at other facilities to make the bicentennial coins. For the next 12 years, about 7 million pennies were struck every day at West Point, all without a mint mark. (Remember, the facility was technically just a bullion depository, so it didn't have its own mint mark.)
Other coins soon followed. In 1974, while still making pennies, West Point also struck bicentennial quarters (as well as millions of one-centisimo coins for Panama). So this facility helped our country celebrate its bicentennial with plenty of coins.
In 1980, West Point began striking gold medallions (large medals). As more medallions were made, more gold was needed. So, two years later, tons of gold bullion—142 truckloads—was moved into the vaults at West Point.
If we use the price of gold in 2000 (to be closer to today's prices), we can figure that the gold moved to West Point in 1982 was worth more than 20 billion dollars. That's billions in bullion! Only the bullion depository at Fort Knox stores more of this nation's gold than the West Point facility stores.
West Point made its mark on a special coin in 1983. In honor of the 1984 Olympic games, a ten-dollar gold commemorative coin was created. Not only was this the first ten-dollar gold coin that the United States Mint had made in more than 50 years, but it was also the first coin ever to use a brand new mint mark: "W" for West Point.
But West Point "makes its mark" in another way as well: It makes more gold and silver bullion coins and gold commemorative coins than any other branch of the United States Mint. The West Point Bullion Depository became a United States Mint in 1988.