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?
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.
1792 - 1849
Congress passes the Coinage Act, creating a national mint to make gold, silver, and copper coins. The United States Mint is born!
President George Washington appoints David Rittenhouse, a leading scientist, as the first Director of the Mint. Construction begins on a building in Philadelphia, the nation's capital at the time.
The new Mint building opens in Philadelphia and coins are made: silver half dimes and copper cents. The silver probably comes from someone’s silverware (maybe George and Martha Washington’s). Harnessed horses power the coin-stamping machines.
A security system is installed: a watchdog costing $3.
America’s first "gold rush" begins in North Carolina.
Gold is discovered in Georgia, spreading gold rush fever further south.
The Mint moves to a second location in Philadelphia.
The first steam-powered coin press is put in place. Coins are made faster (about 100 coins per minute) with the steam press than with the old horse- and man-powered coin presses.
Three new Mint branches open in:
- Charlotte, North Carolina and Dahlonega, Georgia, close to gold mines. Both Mint locations make gold coins.
- New Orleans, Louisiana, the location of a large port. The New Orleans Mint makes both gold and silver coins.
Gold is found in California.
The California Gold Rush takes off the following year.
1850 - 1899
A new mint opens in San Francisco where Gold Rush miners can have their gold tested and weighed.
Gold is found in Colorado.
Silver is found in Nevada the following year (the Comstock Lode).
The Denver assay office opens to test gold and silver ore and weigh and stamp bullion. The building is the former location of Clark, Gruber & Co - a private mint bought by the Treasury Department the previous year.
Construction is complete on a new Mint in Carson City, Nevada. Coin production begins the following year.
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.
From 1876 to the early 1980s, coins will be struck for more than 40 governments, including Hawaii before it becomes the 50th state.
The first U.S. commemorative coin is struck: the World’s Columbian Exposition half dollar. It features Christopher Columbus.
The United States Mint celebrates its 100th anniversary.
1900 - 1949
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 office moves to a new building modeled after a Florentine palace. This is still the location of the Denver Mint today.
Assay duties (testing and weighing gold) end and Denver transitions to a mint (where coins are made).
Coinage begins at the new building in Denver. More than 167 million coins are made the first year.
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.
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 Quarter page to learn more.
As one way to fight the Great Depression, people are no longer allowed to own gold coins or bullion. The Mint stops making gold coins.
A bullion depository is built at Fort Knox, Kentucky (a military training center) to store gold in the form of bars (bullion).
The San Francisco Mint moves to a new (third) building.
The West Point Bullion Depository, built to store silver, opens in New York. It becomes known as "the Fort Knox of silver."
Thomas Jefferson’s portrait appears on the nickel (five-cent coin).
One-cent coins are made from zinc-coated steel for one year so copper can be used for war materials during World War II.
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. See the Dime page to learn more.
1950 - 1999
The San Francisco Mint stops making coins.
The wheat design on the back of the Lincoln cent is replaced with an image of the Lincoln Memorial. View the Penny page to learn more.
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 Half Dollar page to learn more.
Due to a silver shortage, 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, San Francisco returns to striking coins (pennies).
The Philadelphia Mint moves to its fourth and largest facility.
The first clad dollar coin features President Dwight D. Eisenhower. View the Dollar Coin page to learn more.
Our currency is no longer backed by its value in gold.
The facility at West Point starts making coins to reduce the production pressure on the other facilities.
Special circulating coin 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 non-mythical woman to appear on a circulating coin. (Queen Isabella had appeared in 1893, but on a commemorative coin.)
One cent coins begin being made of copper-plated zinc instead of copper because of rising copper prices.
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 first U.S. Mint website is launched, giving the Mint a presence on the ever-expanding "World Wide Web."
The groundbreaking 50 State Quarters Program begins, a 10-year program in which the quarter’s reverse design changes five times every year, once for each state in the Union. Visit the 50 State Quarters page 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.
2000 - Present
The Sacagawea Golden Dollar begins to circulate. Sacagawea was a young Shoshone woman who helped Lewis and Clark on their expedition. To learn more, visit the Sacagawea Golden Dollar page.
West Point strikes the first bi-metallic coin, the Library of Congress Commemorative $10 Coin. The inner portion of the coin is platinum with an outer ring of gold. To learn more about this coin, visit the Library of Congress Commemorative Coins page.
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 Westward Journey Nickels page to learn more.
The Presidential $1 Coin Program begins with its first design, featuring George Washington. Four new designs are released each year to honor all the presidents who have been deceased for at least two years. 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 at the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories Quarters page.
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. Learn more at the Native American $1 Coins page.
The Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar is the first coin featuring readable Braille. The coin honors Louis Braille, the creator of the system.
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 at the America the Beautiful Quarters® Program page.
A Union Shield is chosen as the new "permanent" design for the back of the penny.
The first curved coin (Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin) is minted in gold, silver, and clad.