The San Francisco Mint is a branch of the United States Mint and was opened in 1854 to serve the gold mines of the California Gold Rush. It quickly outgrew its first building and moved into a new one in 1874. This building, the Old United States Mint, also known affectionately as The Granite Lady, is one of the few that survived the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake. It served until 1937, when the present facility was opened.
Old United States Mint (San Francisco)
The old San Francisco Mint building, built in 1874
|Location||Fifth and Mission Streets, San Francisco, California|
|Architect||Alfred B. Mullett|
|Architectural style||Classical Revival|
|NRHP reference #||66000231|
|Added to NRHP||October 15, 1966|
|Designated NHL||July 4, 1961|
Within the first year of its operation, the San Francisco mint turned $4 million in gold bullion into coins. The second building, completed in 1874, was designed by Alfred B. Mullett in a conservative Greek Revival style with a sober Doric order. The building had a central pedimented portico flanked by projecting wings in an E-shape; it was built around a completely enclosed central courtyard that contained a well—the features that saved it during the fire of 1906, when the heat melted the plate glass windows and exploded sandstone and granite blocks with which it was faced. The building sat on a concrete and granite foundation, designed to thwart tunneling into its vaults, which at the time of the 1906 fire held $300 million, fully a third of the United States' gold reserves. Heroic efforts by Superintendent of the Mint, Frank A. Leach, and his men preserved the building and the bullion that then backed the nation's currency. The mint resumed operation soon thereafter, continuing until 1937.
The given name of "The Granite Lady" is somewhat of a misnomer as most of the building is made from sandstone. While the base/basement of the building is made of granite, the entire external and upper stories are made of sandstone. The Granite Lady was a marketing term given in the 1970s that stuck.
The Old Mint was open to visitors until 1993. In 2003 the federal government sold the structure to the City of San Francisco for one dollar—an 1879 silver dollar struck at the mint— for use as a historical museum to be called the San Francisco Museum at the Mint.
In the fall of 2005, ground was broken for renovations that would turn the central court into a glass-enclosed galleria. In 2006 Congress created the San Francisco Old Mint Commemorative Coin, the first coin to honor a United States mint (Pub.L. 109–230). The first phase of renovations were completed in 2011.
In 2014, the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society began raising money for the second phase, which would have included permanent exhibitions. In 2015, the City of San Francisco looked for a new tenant to renovate and program the space with Activate San Francisco Events being selected as an interim tenant. As the City's 2016 public re-opening event, continuing the tradition of a similar event from past years, on the first weekend in March, the Old Mint hosted a "San Francisco History Days" event with over sixty participating historic organizations. Until a new tenant is found, the Old Mint will continue to be used for special events, some open to the public. In April 2016, the California Historical Society agreed to undertake the restoration of the building and its preservation as a public space.
The new Mint was opened in 1937. Beginning in 1955, circulating coinage from San Francisco was suspended for 13 years. In 1968, it took over most proof coinage production from the Philadelphia Mint, but continued striking a supplemental circulating coinage from 1968 through 1974. From 1975 to 2012, the San Francisco Mint has been used only for proof coinage, with the exception of the Susan B. Anthony dollar from 1979–81 and a portion of the mintage of cents in the early 1980s. The dollars bear a mintmark of an "S", but the cents are otherwise indistinguishable from those minted at Philadelphia (which bear no mintmarks, unlike those years' proof cents from San Francisco and circulation cents from Denver). In 2012, the San Francisco mint started to mint circulation strike quarters in the America the Beautiful quarter series, marked with an "S" mintmark and only issued for collectors.
From 1962 to 1988, the San Francisco Mint was officially an assay office; the San Francisco Assay Office was granted mint status again on March 31, 1988 (Pub.L. 100–274). The San Francisco Mint is located at 155 Hermann Street, but only admits visitors on rare exception. On May 15, 1987, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Mint, a limited number of people were allowed to tour the facility. This tour was advertised in the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, with a phone number to call to reserve a spot.
|Value||5 U.S. Dollar|
|Diameter||.850 Inches mm|
|Years of minting||2006|
|Design||The "Granite Lady" San Francisco Old Mint. Inscriptions: '1906-2006', 'Liberty', E Pluribus Unum' & 'San Francisco Earthquake and Fire Centennial'|
|Designer||Charles L. Vickers|
|Design||A replica of the 1906 Half-Eagle Coronet Liberty eagle reverse. Inscriptions: 'United States of America', 'In God We Trust', & 'Five D.'|
In 2006, the United States Mint released a gold five dollar commemorative coin which commemorates the 100th year after the old San Francisco mint survived an earthquake. The mint also played a part in the city's recovery after the earthquake, providing shelter for many as it was one of the few buildings left standing.
The coin was minted as both a proof coin and an uncirculated coin, and is no longer available directly from the United States Mint. On June 15, 2006 President George W. Bush signed Public Law 109-230, legislation authorizing the production of the 2006 San Francisco $5 commemorative gold coin as well as its $1 silver counterpart. The production of the $5 denomination was limited to a maximum mintage of 100,000 coins, but separate mintage figures for each of the proof and uncirculated coins have not yet been released. The $1 silver version was limited to only 500,000 coins, both in proof and uncirculated products, but distinct mintage figures for both products has not been officially stated.
In 2006, the United States Mint released a silver dollar commemorative coin which commemorates the 100th anniversary of the survival of the old San Francisco mint in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
The mint also played a part in the city's recovery after the earthquake.
The American Silver Eagle is the official silver bullion coin of the United States.
It was first released by the United States Mint on November 24, 1986. It is struck only in the one-troy ounce size, which has a nominal face value of one dollar and is guaranteed to contain one troy ounce of 99.9% pure silver. It is authorized by Title II of Public Law 99-61 (Liberty Coin Act, approved July 9, 1985) and codified as 31 U.S.C. § 5112(e)-(h). Its content, weight, and purity are certified by the United States Mint. In addition to the bullion version, the United States Mint has produced a proof version and an uncirculated version for coin collectors. The Silver Eagle has been produced at three mints: the Philadelphia Mint, the San Francisco Mint, and the West Point Mint. The American Silver Eagle bullion coin may be used to fund Individual Retirement Account investments.Barber coinage
The Barber coinage consists of a dime, quarter, and half dollar designed by United States Bureau of the Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber. They were minted between 1892 and 1916, though no half dollars were struck in the final year of the series.
By the late 1880s, there were increasing calls for the replacement of the Seated Liberty design, used since the 1830s on most denominations of silver coins. In 1891, Mint Director Edward O. Leech, having been authorized by Congress to approve coin redesigns, ordered a competition, seeking a new look for the silver coins. As only the winner would receive a cash prize, invited artists refused to participate and no entry from the public proved suitable. Leech instructed Barber to prepare new designs for the dime, quarter, and half dollar, and after the chief engraver made changes to secure Leech's endorsement, they were approved by President Benjamin Harrison in November 1891. Striking of the new coins began the following January.
Public and artistic opinion of the new pieces was, and remains, mixed. In 1915, Mint officials began plans to replace them once the design's minimum term expired in 1916. The Mint issued Barber dimes and quarters in 1916 to meet commercial demand, but before the end of the year, the Mercury dime, Standing Liberty quarter, and Walking Liberty half dollar had begun production. Most dates in the Barber coin series are not difficult to obtain, but the 1894 dime struck at the San Francisco Mint (1894-S), with a mintage of 24, is a great rarity.California Diamond Jubilee half dollar
The California Diamond Jubilee half dollar was a United States commemorative silver fifty-cent piece struck at the San Francisco Mint in 1925. It was issued to celebrate the 75th anniversary of California statehood.
The San Francisco Citizens' Committee wished to issue a commemorative coin as a fundraiser for a celebration of the statehood diamond jubilee. A California congressman attached authorization for it to another coinage bill, which was approved by Congress in early 1925. Designs by sculptor Jo Mora met a hostile reception at the Commission of Fine Arts, but the Citizens' Committee would not change them, and they were approved. The coin has been widely praised for its beauty in the years since.
The coins were struck in August 1925 in San Francisco, and were sold the following month. They did not sell as well as hoped: only some 150,000 of the authorized mintage of 300,000 were ever struck, and of that, nearly half went unsold and were melted. The coin is catalogued at between $200 and $1,300, though exceptional specimens have sold for more.California Pacific International Exposition half dollar
The California Pacific International Exposition half dollar, sometimes called the California Pacific half dollar or the San Diego half dollar, is a commemorative fifty-cent piece struck by the United States Bureau of the Mint in 1935 and 1936. Robert I. Aitken designed the coin. Its obverse depicts Minerva and other elements of the Seal of California; the reverse shows buildings from the California Pacific International Exposition (held 1935–1936), which the coin was issued to honor.
Legislation for the half dollar moved through Congress without opposition in early 1935, and Aitken was hired to design it. Once his creation was approved, the San Francisco Mint produced 250,000 coins, but expected sales did not materialize. Left with over 180,000 pieces they could not sell, the Exposition Commission went back to Congress for further legislation so it could return the unsold pieces and have new coins, dated 1936, hoping for greater sales in the second year of the fair's run. Although the Commission was successful in getting the legislation passed, it was less so in selling the coins, and 150,000 1936-dated pieces were returned to the Mint. The coins, of either date, sell in the low hundreds of dollars today.Fort Vancouver Centennial half dollar
The Fort Vancouver Centennial half dollar, sometimes called the Fort Vancouver half dollar, is a commemorative fifty-cent piece struck by the United States Bureau of the Mint in 1925. The coin was designed by Laura Gardin Fraser. Its obverse depicts John McLoughlin, who was in charge of Fort Vancouver (present-day Vancouver, Washington) from its construction in 1825 until 1846. From there, he effectively ruled the Oregon Country, on behalf of the Hudson's Bay Company. The reverse shows an armed frontiersman standing in front of the fort.
Washington Representative Albert Johnson wanted a coin for Fort Vancouver's centennial celebrations, but was persuaded to accept a medal instead. But when another congressman was successful in amending a coinage bill to add a commemorative, Johnson tacked on language authorizing a coin for Fort Vancouver. The Senate agreed to the changes, and President Calvin Coolidge signed the authorizing act on February 24, 1925.
Fraser was engaged to design the coin on the recommendation of the United States Commission of Fine Arts. The coins were flown from the San Francisco Mint, where they were struck, to Washington state by airplane as a publicity stunt. They sold badly; much of the issue was returned for redemption and melting, and the failure may have been a factor in one official's suicide. Due to the low number of surviving pieces, the coins are valuable today.Frank A. Leach
Frank Aleamon Leach (August 19, 1846 – June 19, 1929) was a United States newspaperman who was Director of the United States Mint from 1906 to 1909. In the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the heroic efforts by Frank A. Leach and his men preserved the old San Francisco Mint building and the bullion that then backed the nation's currency.Indian Head cent mintage figures
Indian Head cents, designed by James B. Longacre, were minted in the United States from 1859-1909. Due to the American Civil War, the composition changed in 1864 from a copper-nickel alloy to a bronze alloy, going from 4.67 grams to 3.11 grams. Coins without a mint mark were minted in the Philadelphia Mint, and coins with the "S" mint mark were minted in the San Francisco Mint.John Daggett
John Daggett (May 9, 1833 – August 30, 1919) was a mine owner and politician who served as the 16th Lieutenant Governor of California from 1883 to 1887.Kalākaua coinage
The Kalākaua coinage is a set of silver coins of the Kingdom of Hawaii dated 1883, authorized to boost Hawaiian pride by giving the kingdom its own money. They were designed by Charles E. Barber, Chief Engraver of the United States Bureau of the Mint, and were struck at the San Francisco Mint. The issued coins are a dime (ten-cent piece), quarter dollar, half dollar, and dollar.
No immediate action had been taken after the 1880 act authorizing coins, but King Kalākaua was interested and government officials saw a way to get out of a financial bind by getting coins issued in exchange for government bonds. Businessman Claus Spreckels was willing to make the arrangements with the United States in exchange for profits from the coin production, and contracted with the US Mint to have $1,000,000 worth of coins struck. Originally, a 121⁄2 cent piece was planned and a few specimens were struck, but it was scrapped in an effort to have uniformity between US and Hawaiian coins, and a dime was substituted. The coins were struck at San Francisco in 1883 and 1884, though all bear the earlier date.
The coins met a hostile reception from the business community in Honolulu, who feared inflation of the currency in a time of recession. After legal maneuvering, the government agreed to use over half of the coinage as backing for paper currency, and this continued until better economic times began in 1885. After that, the coins were more eagerly accepted in circulation. They remained in the flow of commerce on the islands until withdrawn in 1903, after Hawaii had become a US territory.Manila Mint
The Manila Mint (Spanish: Real Casa de la Moneda y Timbre de Manila) was a coinage mint that briefly served as a branch of the United States Mint, located in Manila, now the capital city of the Philippines.Market Street Railway (nonprofit)
Market Street Railway is San Francisco Municipal Railway's (Muni) 1,200-member nonprofit preservation partner. It relies on private contributions to help maintain San Francisco’s fleet of historic streetcars in service on the E Embarcadero and F Market & Wharves lines and the national landmark cable cars.
Market Street Railway operates a vintage vehicle restoration facility at 1 Buchanan Street, in the shadow of the 1937 San Francisco Mint. It is here that Market Street Railway volunteers restore historic vehicles before donating them to Muni.
Market Street Railway borrows the name of the Market Street Railway Company, a former commercial streetcar and bus operator in San Francisco.Mint mark
A mint mark is a letter, symbol or an inscription on a coin indicating the mint where the coin was produced.Office of the Supervising Architect for the U.S. Treasury
The Office of the Supervising Architect was an agency of the United States Treasury Department that designed federal government buildings from 1852 to 1939.
The office handled some of the most important architectural commissions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Among its creations are the well-known State, War, and Navy building (now the Eisenhower Executive Office Building) in Washington, DC, the San Francisco Mint Building, and smaller post offices that have served communities for decades, many recognized as National Historic Landmarks, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, or designated as local landmarks.Quarter (United States coin)
The quarter, short for quarter dollar, is a United States coin worth 25 cents, one-fourth of a dollar. It has a diameter of .955 inches (24.26 mm) and a thickness of .069 inches (1.75 mm). The coin sports the profile of George Washington on its obverse, and its reverse design has changed frequently. It has been produced on and off since 1796 and consistently since 1831.The choice of 1⁄4 as a denomination—as opposed to the 1⁄5 more common elsewhere—originated with the practice of dividing Spanish milled dollars into eight wedge-shaped segments. "Two bits" (that is, two "pieces of eight") is a common nickname for a quarter.Sixpence (Australian)
The Australian sixpence was a coin used in the Commonwealth of Australia prior to the decimalisation of the Australian currency in 1966. The pre-decimal sixpence was minted from 1910 until 1963, excluding the years 1913, 1915, 1929–33 inclusive, 1937, 1947 and 1949.
The sixpence was the only pre-decimal Australian coin which never had the design on its reverse altered. That is especially surprising given that the coat of arms depicted was obsolete for almost all of that time, having been superseded by the current one in 1912.
During World War II, between 1942 and 1944, sixpence production was supplemented by coinage produced by two branches of the United States Mint. Coins struck at the San Francisco mint (1942–1944) carry a small S below the coat of arms, while those from the Denver mint (1942–1943) have a small D in the same place.
From 1910 to 1945 Australian sixpences were of sterling silver (0.925 fine) with 7.5% copper; from 1946 to 1963 they were reduced to 0.500 fine silver which is made from 50% silver, 40% copper, 5% nickel and 5% zinc.
After decimalisation on 14 February 1966, the sixpence continued to circulate at the value of 5c, along with new 5c coins of the same size and weight.Three-dollar piece
The three-dollar piece was a gold coin produced by the United States Bureau of the Mint from 1854 to 1889. Authorized by the Act of February 21, 1853, the coin was designed by Mint Chief Engraver James B. Longacre. The obverse bears a representation of Lady Liberty wearing a headdress of a Native American princess and the reverse a wreath of corn, wheat, cotton, and tobacco.
In 1851, Congress had authorized a silver three-cent piece so that postage stamps of that value could be purchased without using the widely disliked copper cents. Two years later, a bill was passed which authorized a three-dollar coin. By some accounts, the coin was created so larger quantities of stamps could be purchased. Longacre, in designing the piece, sought to make it as different as possible from the quarter eagle or $2.50 piece, striking it on a thinner planchet and using a distinctive design.
Although over 100,000 were struck in the first year, the coin saw little use. It circulated somewhat on the West Coast, where gold and silver were used to the exclusion of paper money, but what little place it had in commerce in the East was lost in the economic disruption of the Civil War, and was never regained. The piece was last struck in 1889, and Congress ended the series the following year. Although many dates were struck in small numbers, the rarest was produced at the San Francisco Mint in 1870 (1870-S); only one is known with certainty to exist.Threepence (Australian)
The Australian Threepence is a small silver coin used in the Commonwealth of Australia prior to decimalisation. It was minted from 1910 until 1964, excluding 1913, 1929–1933 inclusive, 1937, 1945 and 1946. After decimalisation on 14 February 1966, the coin was equivalent to 2½¢, but was rapidly withdrawn from circulation.
During World War II, threepence production was supplemented by coinage produced by the United States Mint at the San Francisco and Denver mints. Coins minted at the San Francisco mint from 1942–1944 contain a small capital S on the reverse, while coins produced at the Denver mint from 1942–1943 have a small capital D on the reverse.Union Pacific Big Springs robbery
The Union Pacific Big Springs Robbery was a robbery of a Union Pacific train near present-day Big Springs, Nebraska on September 18, 1877. The robbery was perpetrated by a gang of six outlaws led by Sam Bass. Though there were no fatalities, the bandits reportedly stole $60,000 in newly minted $20 gold pieces which was being shipped from the San Francisco Mint to a bank in the eastern United States, among other valuables. Contemporary press coverage of the sensational heist made Bass and his gang of "Black Hills Bandits" instantly famous. It remains the largest single robbery in the history of the Union Pacific Railroad. Several of the gang members were killed in the days following the robbery, but Bass escaped.United States nickel mintage figures
These are the mintage quantities for strikings of the United States nickel
P = Philadelphia Mint
D = Denver Mint
S = San Francisco MintThis list does not include proof mintages.
United States currency and coinage
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