Philadelphia Mint

Last updated

Coordinates: 39°57′13″N75°08′51″W / 39.9536°N 75.1474°W / 39.9536; -75.1474


The Philadelphia Mint was created from the need to establish a national identity and the needs of commerce in the United States. This led the Founding Fathers of the United States to make an establishment of a continental national mint, a main priority after the ratification of the Constitution of the United States.

The Coinage Act of 1792 was entered into law on April 2. It proclaimed the creation of the United States Mint. Philadelphia at that time was the nation's capital; therefore the first mint facility was built there. The Coinage Act of 1792 also instituted a decimal system based on a dollar unit; specified weights, metallic composition and fineness; and required each United States coin feature "an impression emblematic of liberty".


First building (1792–1833)

First Philadelphia Mint, built 1792,
photo of 1908, since demolished Ye Olde Mint,1792.jpg
First Philadelphia Mint, built 1792,
photo of 1908, since demolished

David Rittenhouse, an American scientist, was appointed the first director of the mint by President George Washington. Two lots were purchased by Rittenhouse on July 18, 1792, at Seventh Street and 631 Filbert Street in Philadelphia for $4,266.67. The next day, demolition of an abandoned whiskey distillery on the property began. Foundation work began on July 31, and by September 7, the first building was ready for installation of the smelting furnace. The smelt house was the first public building erected by the United States government. A three-story brick structure facing Seventh Street was constructed a few months later. Measuring nearly 37 ft (11 m) wide on the street, it only extended back 33 ft (10 m). The gold and silver for the mint were contained in basement vaults. The first floor housed deposit and weighing rooms, along with the press room, where striking coins took place. Mint official offices were on the second floor, and the assay office was located on the third floor. A photograph of the Seventh Street building taken around 1908 show that by then, the year 1792 and the words "Ye Olde Mint" (in quotes) had been painted onto the facade.

Between the smelt house and the building on Seventh Street, a mill house was built. Horses in the basement turned a rolling mill located on the first floor.

In January 1816, the smelt and mill houses were destroyed by a fire. The smelt house was never repaired and all smelting was done elsewhere. The mill house, which was completely destroyed, was soon replaced with a large brick building. It included a new steam engine in the basement to power the machinery.

Until 1833, these three buildings provided the United States with hard currency. Operations moved to the second Philadelphia mint in 1833, and the land housing the first mint was sold. In the late 19th or early 20th century, the property was sold to Frank Stewart, who approached the city, asking them to preserve or relocate the historic buildings. [1] With no governmental help, the first mint was demolished between 1907 and 1911. Now, only a small plaque remains to memorialize the spot.

Second building (1833–1901)

Second Philadelphia Mint, built 1833,
pictured in 1902, since demolished Second Mint.jpeg
Second Philadelphia Mint, built 1833,
pictured in 1902, since demolished

On July 4, 1829, a cornerstone was laid for the building at the intersection of Chestnut and Juniper Streets. It was designed by William Strickland. The second Philadelphia Mint, the "Grecian Temple", was constructed of white marble with classic Greek-style columns on front and back. Measuring 150 ft (46 m) wide in front by 204 ft (62 m) deep, it was a huge improvement over the first facility, in space as well as image. Opening in January 1833, its production was constrained by the outdated machinery salvaged from the first mint. Franklin Peale was sent to Europe to study advanced coinmaking technologies which were brought back and implemented, increasing productivity and quality.

Sold in 1902, the second mint was quickly demolished. The cornerstone buried in 1829 was unearthed and contained a candy jar with a petrified cork stoppering it. Inside the jar were three coins, a few newspapers, and a scroll with information on the first mint and the creation of the second.

The site has been occupied since 1914 by the 19-story Widener Building, 1339 Chestnut Street.

Third building (1901–1969)

Third Philadelphia Mint (1901). Now Community College of Philadelphia. Philadelphia; a guide, made for the convenience of people interested in the city's notable history and present achievements (1917) (14757562396).jpg
Third Philadelphia Mint (1901). Now Community College of Philadelphia.

The third Philadelphia Mint was built at 1700 Spring Garden Street and opened in 1901. It was designed by William Martin Aiken, Architect for the Treasury, but it was constructed under James Knox Taylor. It was a block from the United States Smelting Company that was at Broad and Spring Garden Streets. In one year alone, the mint produced 501 million coins (5/7 of the U.S. currency minted), as well as 90 million coins for foreign countries. [2]

A massive structure nearly a full city block, it was an instant landmark, characterized by a Roman temple facade. Visitors enjoyed seven themed glass mosaics designed by Louis C. Tiffany in a gold-backed vaulted ceiling. The mosaics depicted ancient Roman coinmaking methods. This mint still stands intact, and much of the interior is intact, as well. It was acquired by the Community College of Philadelphia in 1971 which retains a gallery in tribute to its history. [3]

Fourth and current building (1969–present)

The modern Philadelphia Mint (1969) United States Mint Philadelphia.jpg
The modern Philadelphia Mint (1969)

Two blocks from the site of the first mint, the fourth and current Philadelphia Mint opened its doors in 1969. It was designed by Philadelphia architect Vincent G. Kling, who would also help design Five Penn Center, Centre Square, and the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. [4] The Tiffany glass mosaics from the Third mint were re-installed in the new facility. [5] It was the world's largest mint when it was built and held that distinction as of October 2017.

The Philadelphia Mint can produce up to one million coins in 30 minutes. [6] The mint also produces medals and awards for military, governmental, and civil services. Engraving of all dies and strikers only occurs here. Uncirculated coins minted here have the "P" mint mark, while circulated coins from before 1980 carried no mint mark except the Jefferson nickels minted from 1942–1945 and the 1979 Susan B. Anthony dollar coins. Since 1980, all coins minted there have the "P" mint mark except cents (although 2017 cents do have the "P" mint mark).

Tours can be taken where all stages of minting are explained, along with displays of past equipment. This takes place via an enclosed catwalk above the minting facility itself. Various video stations are placed along the tour route, where visitors can push buttons to watch videos about various stages of the minting process. Most of those videos were narrated by Baseball Hall of Fame announcer for the Philadelphia Phillies (and voice of NFL Films), Harry Kalas. [7]


On August 19, 1858, two well-dressed thieves on a tour of the mint used a counterfeit key to open a display case. They made off with $265.00 in gold pieces, but due to the rarity of the coins, the men were quickly apprehended while trying to spend them in local shops. [8] [9]

In 1893, Henry S. Cochran, a weighing clerk, was found to have embezzled $134,000 in gold bars from the mint vault over a period of 8–10 years. A total of $107,000 was recovered from his home and from a cache in the ventilation system inside the mint. [10]

About 445,000 double eagle coins were minted in 1933, but only one was ever legally released. King Farouk of Egypt contacted Nellie Tayloe Ross, then Director of the U.S. Mint, and requested one 1933 double eagle for his extensive coin collection. Since the 1933 coins were not circulated, she took one coin to the Smithsonian Institution and received documentation of its rarity. She then issued an export document allowing the Egyptian king to receive his coin. After the deaths of Farouk and the general who inherited the king's collection, the coin disappeared into a European collector's possession. It resurfaced when Stephen Fenton acquired it. When he tried to auction it off, both he and the auctioneer were arrested and the coin was seized. It was placed in the vault of the Secret Service in their office in the World Trade Center. While the provenance and paperwork proving ownership was debated ad nauseam in the courts, the coin was transferred to Fort Knox for further safekeeping. The World Trade Center was attacked and destroyed later that year. An agreement was reached between the U.S. Government and Stephen Fenton. The Fenton Farouk, as it came to be called, was sold at auction for $7.9 million in 2002 with a 10% auctioneer's premium and $20 to "monetize" the coin. Fenton and the government split the proceeds of the auction, with the provision that any further 1933 double eagles would be seized and not auctioned. [11] In 2003, a Philadelphia woman named Joan Switt Langbord found ten 1933 double eagles in a safe deposit box that once belonged to her parents; when she took them to be appraised, they were seized by the United States Treasury as stolen property. Investigators claimed that Langbord's father, Israel Switt, conspired with a clerk inside the mint to steal the coins. He had been investigated previously for the crime, leading to the confiscation of several gold pieces, but the statute of limitations had prevented him from being prosecuted. [12] Langbord sued to have the coins returned to her, but in July 2011, a federal jury ruled the stolen coins were property of the U.S. government. [13]

In September 2011, former mint officer William Gray pleaded guilty in federal court to stealing error coins valued at $2.4 million and selling them to a distributor. [14]

See also

Related Research Articles

Coins of the United States dollar were first minted in 1792. New coins have been produced annually and they make up a valuable aspect of the United States currency system. Today, circulating coins exist in denominations of 1¢, 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, and $1.00. Also minted are bullion and commemorative coins. All of these are produced by the United States Mint. The coins are then sold to Federal Reserve Banks which in turn are responsible for putting coins into circulation and withdrawing them as demanded by the country's economy.

United States Mint Produces circulating coinage for the United States

The United States Mint is a bureau of the Department of the Treasury responsible for producing coinage for the United States to conduct its trade and commerce, as well as controlling the movement of bullion. It does not produce paper money; that responsibility belongs to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The first United States Mint was created in Philadelphia in 1792, and soon joined by other centers, whose coins were identified by their own mint marks. There are currently four active coin-producing mints: Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, and West Point.

1933 double eagle Twenty-dollar American gold coin minted in 1933

The 1933 double eagle is a United States 20-dollar gold coin. Although 445,500 specimens of this Saint-Gaudens double eagle were minted in 1933, none were ever officially circulated, and all but two were ordered to be melted down. However, 20 more are known to have been rescued from melting by being stolen and found their way into the hands of collectors before later being recovered. Nine of the recovered coins were destroyed, making this one of the world's rarest coins, with only 13 known specimens remaining—only one of which is privately owned.

Double eagle Gold $20 coin of the United States

A double eagle is a gold coin of the United States with a denomination of $20. The coins are 34 mm x 2 mm and are made from a 90% gold and 10% copper alloy and have a total weight of 1.0750 troy ounces.

Eagle (United States coin) Ten-dollar gold coin minted 1792–1933

The eagle was a United States $10 gold coin issued by the United States Mint from 1792 to 1933.

Coinage Act of 1792 U.S. legislation establishing and regulating the national currency and mint

The Coinage Act of 1792, passed by the United States Congress on April 2, 1792, created the United States dollar as the country's standard unit of money, established the United States Mint, and regulated the coinage of the United States. This act established the silver dollar as the unit of money in the United States, declared it to be lawful tender, and created a decimal system for U.S. currency.

Half dime Former United States five-cent silver coin

The half dime, or half disme, was a silver coin, valued at five cents, formerly minted in the United States.

American Silver Eagle Silver bullion coin of the United States

The American Silver Eagle is the official silver bullion coin of the United States.

New Orleans Mint Branch of the United States Mint

The New Orleans Mint operated in New Orleans, Louisiana, as a branch mint of the United States Mint from 1838 to 1861 and from 1879 to 1909. During its years of operation, it produced over 427 million gold and silver coins of nearly every American denomination, with a total face value of over US$ 307 million. It was closed during most of the American Civil War and Reconstruction.

Denver Mint United States historic place

The Denver Mint is a branch of the United States Mint that struck its first coins on February 1, 1906. The mint is still operating and producing coins for circulation, as well as mint sets and commemorative coins. Coins produced at the Denver Mint bear a D mint mark. The Denver Mint is the single largest producer of coins in the world.

Saint-Gaudens double eagle US 20-dollar coin (1907–1933)

The Saint-Gaudens double eagle is a twenty-dollar gold coin, or double eagle, produced by the United States Mint from 1907 to 1933. The coin is named after its designer, the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who designed the obverse and reverse. It is considered by many to be the most beautiful of U.S. coins.

Carson City Mint United States historic place

The Carson City Mint was a branch of the United States Mint in Carson City, Nevada. It primarily minted silver coins; however, it also minted gold coins, with a total face value in dollars nearly equal to that of its silver coins. The mint minted coins in 21 different years.

Quarter eagle Gold coin issued by the United States

The quarter eagle was a gold coin issued by the United States with a denomination of two hundred and fifty cents, or two dollars and fifty cents. It was given its name in the Coinage Act of 1792, as a derivation from the US ten-dollar eagle coin.

Half eagle Gold coin issued by the United States face valued at five dollars

The half eagle is a United States coin that was produced for circulation from 1795 to 1929 and in commemorative and bullion coins since 1983. Composed almost entirely of gold, its face value of five dollars is half that of the eagle coin. Production of the half eagle was authorized by the Coinage Act of 1792, and it was the first gold coin minted by the United States.

Louis E. Eliasberg American numismatist

Louis Edward Eliasberg, Sr. was an American financier and numismatist. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, he is best known in the numismatic community for putting together the only complete collection of United States coins ever assembled, with attention to coins in the best possible condition. Although the set was not truly "complete" by modern standards, it is still the most comprehensive U.S. numismatic collection to date.

Indian Head eagle United States $10 gold piece

The Indian Head eagle is a $10 gold piece or eagle that was struck by the United States Mint continuously from 1907 until 1916, and then irregularly until 1933. The obverse and reverse were designed by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, originally commissioned for use on other denominations. He was suffering from cancer and did not survive to see the coins released.

Turban Head eagle US ten-dollar gold piece (1795–1804)

The Turban Head eagle, also known as the Capped Bust eagle, was a ten-dollar gold piece, or eagle, struck by the United States Mint from 1795 to 1804. The piece was designed by Robert Scot, and was the first in the eagle series, which continued until the Mint ceased striking gold coins for circulation in 1933. The common name is a misnomer; Liberty does not wear a turban but a cap, believed by some to be a pileus or Phrygian cap : her hair twisting around the headgear makes it resemble a turban.

Indian Head gold pieces United States 20th-century gold coins

The Indian Head gold pieces or Pratt-Bigelow gold coins were two separate coin series, identical in design, struck by the United States Mint: a two-and-a-half-dollar piece, or quarter eagle, and a five-dollar coin, or half eagle. The quarter eagle was struck from 1908 to 1915 and from 1925–1929. The half eagle was struck from 1908 to 1916, and in 1929. The pieces remain the only US circulating coins with recessed designs. These coins were the last of their denominations to be struck for circulation, ending series that began in the 1790s.

Liberty Head double eagle American twenty-dollar gold piece

The Liberty Head double eagle or Coronet double eagle is an American twenty-dollar gold piece struck as a pattern coin in 1849, and for commerce from 1850 to 1907. It was designed by Mint of the United States Chief Engraver James B. Longacre.

1804 dollar Coin worth one US$

The 1804 dollar or Bowed Liberty Dollar was a dollar coin struck by the Mint of the United States, of which fifteen specimens are currently known to exist. Though dated 1804, none were struck in that year; all were minted in the 1830s or later. They were first created for use in special proof coin sets used as diplomatic gifts during Edmund Roberts' trips to Siam and Muscat.


  1. Stewart, Frank (1974). History of the First United States Mint. Lawrence, MA: Quarterman. pp. 148–155. ISBN   9780880000307.
  2. Third Philadelphia Mint (1901–1969) – – Retrieved August 31, 2008 Archived April 22, 2014, at
  3. "Gilroy Roberts Gallery". Art Around the College. Community College of Philadelphia. 8 November 2013. Retrieved 30 March 2022.
  4. Vincent Kling – Ed Bacon Foundation – Retrieved August 31, 2008 Archived February 16, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  5. "Unveiling Ceremony of the Mint's Historic Tiffany Glass Mosaics". United States Mint. Retrieved 30 March 2022.
  6. "US Philadelphia Mint: View images and history of the oldest of all USA Mints". Archived from the original on 2021-04-16. Retrieved 2021-10-07.
  7. Radio Hall of Fame entry for Kalas Archived 2012-03-11 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 2012-03-15
  8. "Daring Robbery at the United States Mint" (PDF). The New York Times. August 19, 1858. Archived (PDF) from the original on May 28, 2020. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  9. "Another Report of the 1858 U.S. Mint Cabinet Robbery". Numismatic Bibliomania Society. October 5, 2008. Archived from the original on June 19, 2015. Retrieved August 7, 2012.
  10. "Stolen By a Trusted Clerk" (PDF). The New York Times. September 17, 1893. Archived (PDF) from the original on May 28, 2020. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  11. "United States Mint Recovers 10 Famed Double Eagles". United States Mint. August 11, 2005. Archived from the original on August 21, 2012. Retrieved August 7, 2012.
  12. "Family, U.S. claim rare 1933 'double eagle' gold coins". USA Today. July 7, 2011. Archived from the original on 2012-04-18. Retrieved 2017-09-08.
  13. "1933 Double Eagle Coins Were Stolen, According To Federal And Philadelphia Courts". July 20, 2011. Archived from the original on December 4, 2020. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  14. "US Mint officer admits taking $2.4M worth of coins". Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2017-01-09.