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A short history of the United States Mint.

United States Mint in PhiladelphiaThe United States Mint was created on April 2, 1792 when Congress passed The Coinage Act. This Act created the Mint, and authorized construction of the first mint, to be located in Philadelphia.

The first coins issued by the mint were 11,178 copper cents. Shortly after, the mint also began producing gold and silver coins. These first coins included the Gold Eagles, Half Eagles and Quarter Eagles, as well as silver Dollars, Half Dollars and Quarter Dollars.This mint was not only going to provide the coins needed by a new country, it was also the first federal building every constructed under the Constitution.

There is still an operating mint in Philadelphia, PA. However, the needs of a growing country often cannot be met by one facility. Currently, there are five mints.

The other four are located in Denver, CO; San Francisco, CA; West Point, NY; and the bullion depository in Fort Knox, KY. The headquarters for the Mint are located in Washington, DC.

The original mint in Philadelphia used harnessed horses to power the equipment that would make the coins. The entire process was inexact, physically demanding, and time-consuming.

Many of the created coins were imperfect as a result. Today, automation has turned the process into an exact science. Coins can now be produced twenty-four hours a day.

Changes have also been made over the years in the composition of American coins. In 1792, the law clearly stated that American money would be comprised of gold, silver, or copper.

Denominations included $10, and $2.50. The dollar, half-dollar, quarter, dime and half-dime were to be made of silver with cent and half-cent pieces being made of copper.

The half-dollars continued to be minted using 40% silver up until 1970.1933 brought the Great Depression, and the Mint stopped producing gold coins. In 1966, a silver shortage caused the Mint to cease using silver in the quarters and dimes.

The Bicentennial Kennedy Half Dollar was 80% silver and only 20% copper.

Coins are currently minted using cupro-nickel clad over a copper core. The outer shell is 75% copper with the other 25% being a nickel alloy. Pennies are actually made using a copper-plated zinc.

The Mint currently produces the coins used in circulation, as well as medals and commemorative coins. Commemorative coins are all legal tender, and can be used as such.

However, they are minted with the intention of being collected, or purchased as investments. They are minted in smaller quantities, and often for a limited time. These coins typically carry a surcharge that is then donated to organizations and groups to benefit the community.

The commemorative coin program began in 1982. Since its inception, it has raised 418 billion dollars to help build museums, maintain monuments, and preserve historical sites.

Medals are also issued by the Mint to commemorate significant historical events, people, or sites. Those events or people, who have enriched United States history, or even world history, are typically chosen for this honor.

Currently, the Mint is offering medals honoring the Women Airforce Service Pilots, the Dalai Lama, and the Tuskegee Airmen, among others.

Read our guide to¬†buying U.S. Gold Coins…