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Big Things Happened at the United States Mint in December

Big Things Have Happened at the United States Mint in the Month of December

By CoinWeek …..
The month of December has historically been a time for Americans to take it easy, spend time with their family, celebrate the holidays, and prepare for the New Year. Not so for the United States Mint. Since its founding in 1792, the Mint has worked month after month, often around the clock, through war and peace to strike the nation’s coins.

CoinWeek has dug through more than 228 years of Mint history to provide this list of important December goings-on at the U.S. Mint. This list denotes important visits, important personnel changes, and historic strikings.

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December 1, 1794: The Mint delivers its first shipment of half dollars, 5,300 to be exact. No silver coinage is delivered for the rest of the year.

December 1, 1862: United States Mint Superintendent James Pollock writes Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase raising concerns about the Mint’s ability to obtain sufficient quantities of nickel to strike one-cent coins.

1862 Indian Head cent in Proof.

December 1, 2016: The Uncirculated version of the 30th Anniversary American Silver Eagle goes on sale.

December 2, 1850: In his first message to Congress, President Millard Fillmore recommends that a branch mint be established in California.

December 2, 1854: Chief Coiner Franklin Peale, no friend to Chief Engraver James Longacre, whose position he clearly coveted, is forced to leave the employ of the United States Mint. Peale did appeal to Congress numerous times for remuneration for unpaid work. Congress ultimately paid $10,000 to his daughter, three years after his death, in 1873.

December 2, 1877: Mint Director Linderman sends Philadelphia Mint Superintendent James Pollock design details for the Mint to create “goloid” patterns based on William Wheeler Hubbell’s proposal.

December 3, 1833: The Director of the Mint writes a letter to Congress discussing proposals to reform U.S. coinage. Included with the letter were pattern pieces struck in various alloys.

December 4, 1987: The U.S. Senate confirms Cynthia Grassby Baker for the position of Superintendent of the Denver Mint.

December 5, 1848: President James K. Polk proposes the establishment of a new branch mint in San Francisco, California.

December 5, 1968: The Joint Commission on the Coinage meets to discuss the introduction of a non-silver dollar coin. These talks lead to the creation of the Eisenhower dollar. The commission also determined that the GSA cannot sell 2.9 million silver dollars on hand without specific authorization by the United States Congress.

December 6, 1994: President William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton nominates Robert Rubin to replace retiring Lloyd Bentsen as Treasury Secretary.

December 8, 1921: First Peace dollars are struck.

December 8, 1958: The Commission on Fine Arts (CFA) approves Gasparro’s revised design for the Lincoln Memorial cent.

December 10, 1860: Treasury Secretary Howell Cobb resigns his post to join the Confederacy.

December 11, 1891: United States Mint Superintendent Oliver C. Bosbyshell requests a delay in the production of the new Barber coinage until dies can be properly tested. Mint Director Edward O. Leech would write back three days later denying Bosbyshell’s request.

1979 Susan B. Anthony dollars – Wide and Narrow Rim varieties shown.

December 12, 1838: Mint Director Patterson writes a letter to Treasury Secretary Levi Woodbury informing him of the delivery of four 1838 Eagle gold coins of the new design sent to him on December 6. These were the first gold issues of the denomination struck for circulation in 34 years.

December 12, 1860: Philip F. Thomas is appointed Secretary of the Treasury. Thomas, the former Governor of Maryland, reluctantly took the job as the country was careening towards financial and political disaster. He would resign after only a month after failing to secure funding to pay interest on the public debt.

December 13, 1978: The Philadelphia Mint begins production of the 1979 Susan B. Anthony dollar. The coin was the first U.S. coin to feature the P mintmark since World War II.

December 13, 2011: Seeing it as another dollar coin boondoggle, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner suspends coinage of Presidential dollar coins for circulation.

December 14, 1891: After a lengthy back-and-forth between Philadelphia Mint Superintendent Oliver C. Bosbyshell and United States Mint Director Edward O. Leech concerning Barber’s new coin design, Leech orders the dies to be prepared without delay.

December 14, 1899: The entire mintage of the Lafayette half dollar is struck. 26 of which are held for assay.

December 15, 1848: The Mint receives $3,910 of California gold from War Secretary William L. Marcy. This deposit is used to strike the famous 1848 CAL. quarter eagles.

1883 $3.00 PCGS AU58. Images courtesy Doug Winter
1883 $3.00 PCGS AU58. Images courtesy Doug Winter.

December 15, 1883: The Philadelphia Mint delivers the year’s entire mintage of business strike Three Dollar gold coins, 900 pieces.

December 15, 1983: President Ronald Reagan presents composer Fred Waring with a Congressional Gold Medal.

December 17, 1810: The United States Mint delivers the second (and final batch) of 1809-dated dimes struck in 1810.

December 17, 1863: Following a string of military successes, the Senate passes House resolution requesting that the President of the United States to cause a gold medal to be struck and given to Major General Ulysses S. Grant on behalf of the people of the United States.

December 17, 1878: Mint begins to issue gold coins into the market for the first time since 1861. In short order, gold achieves parity with paper money in circulation.

December 17, 1985: Congress authorizes the production of gold bullion coins.

December 18, 1882: Mint Director Burchard notifies Mint Director Snowden that the nickel design would need to be altered per the instructions of Treasury Secretary  Charles Folger in accordance with the Coinage Act of 1873. The ordered revisions were to place LIBERTY and the date appear on the obverse and that the legend: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, the motto: E PLURIBUS UNUM, and the coin’s denomination appear on the reverse.

December 18, 1922: A guard is shot after four men rob a Federal Reserve truck stationed outside of the Denver Mint. As a result, the United States Mint closes the Philadelphia and Denver facilities to the public. This event leads the Mint to transfer its coin cabinet to the Smithsonian Institution.

December 19, 1921: President Hoover selects De Francisci’s design for the Peace dollar.

December 20, 1860: South Carolina secedes from the Union. Within days, Louisiana state officials visit the New Orleans Mint and inform the staff that the facility is now under state control.

December 20, 1882: Snowden appeals Burchard’s decision (see December 18, 1882), arguing that the Treasury Secretary had misinterpreted the Coinage Act of 1873 and that the proposed design was not in violation of the law.

December 20, 1906: Roosevelt writes to the ailing Augustus Saint-Gaudens to exclaim his enthusiasm for the artist’s $20 gold coin design, calling the design “immense” and ordering that the Mint produce dies just as quickly as possible and just as they are.”

December 20, 1958: President Dwight D. Eisenhower announces a change to the reverse of the Lincoln cent, adopting Frank Gasparro’s Memorial design.

December 21, 1933: President Franklin D. Roosevelt issues executive order mandating that the U.S. Mint pay $4.64 per ounce of silver.

December 22, 1849: After an arduous development cycle, James Longacre’s finished $20 gold coin dies are used to strike at least two 1849 double eagles. Today, the only known example is housed at the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution and is valued by Jeff Garrett at over $25 million. We value it at $17.28 million, with the juice, but who’s counting?

1849 Double Eagle. The only example known. Image: National Numismatic Collection / Smithsonian Institution.

December 23, 1936: The Commission of Fine Arts approves the Arkansas half dollar reverse design depicting Senator Joseph Taylor Robinson.

December 26, 1849: Treasury Secretary William Meredith approves Longacre’s $20 gold coin design. The coin enters regular production in 1850.

December 27, 1864: Treasury Secretary Hugh McCulloch appoints Henry Rice, Abraham Curry, and John H. Mills to obtain land and oversee the construction of the Carson City Mint.

December 27, 1904: President Theodore Roosevelt writes to Treasury Secretary Leslie Mortier Shaw: “I think our coinage is artistically of atrocious hideousness” and then asks “would it be possible, without asking permission of Congress, to employ a man like Saint-Gaudens to give us a coinage that would have some beauty?”.

December 28, 1792: President George Washington visits the Mint to inspect its operations. The previous day, the Mint had assayed a deposit of foreign silver coins.

December 28, 1836: Mint Director Patterson writes a letter to Congress discussing the various weights and sizes of small gold coins as Congress considers adopting a one dollar gold coin.

December 29, 1799: The Bank of the United States deposits $44,015.71 worth of French Crowns for coining into U.S. silver dollars. The Mint delivers the coins in February 1800.

December 30, 1861: New York banks suspended specie payments for Greenbacks. This move would reverberate through the country.

December 30, 1963: A week after President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas, legislation authorizing the production of the Kennedy half dollar is signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.

December 31, 1829: The United States Mint reports that it has a stockpile of 900,000 half cents in its vault.

December 31, 1836: 600 “Gobrecht” dollars are reported as struck. These coins weigh 416.8 grains with the obverse and reverse showing a “coin turn” orientation. Some researchers believe that these coins may actually have been produced in early 1837.

December 31, 1873: The Carson City Mint strikes 5,000 $20 gold coins, wrapping up the year’s total output of 22,410 for the denomination.

December 31, 1912: Coinage of Liberty Head nickel design officially ends.

December 31, 1969: Order cut-off date for 1970 Proof Sets, the last Proof set to include the 40% silver Kennedy half dollar featuring the Gasparro eagle reverse.

December 31, 1974: Reversing a policy that lasted 31 years, private ownership of gold bullion is legalized in the United States.

1873-CC $20 Liberty Head Double Eagle.

Also Happening at the United States Mint in December

December 1815: The Mint strikes 69,000 quarters and ships 60,000 of them to Planter’s Bank of New Orleans. This is the first order for the denomination since 1807, prompting the creation of a new design.

December 1835: France and America settle a diplomatic dispute dating back to the undeclared naval war of 1799-1800. France agreed to pay America 25 million francs in gold. The Mint recoined these francs into American gold coins and paid them out to ship owners and merchants impacted by the conflict.

December 1836: The Mint strikes more than 1,000 Gobrecht silver dollars on a screw press in Philadelphia. These are the first U.S. coins bearing the Seated Liberty motif.

December 1840: Mint revises the obverse of the dime.

December 1863: Geologist H.P. Bennett returns to Washington after surveying the Comstock region for the Treasury Department.

December 1877: Silver dollar patterns utilizing designs by William Barber and George T. Morgan are struck for Linderman’s examination.

December 1878: Mint begins to issue gold coins into the marketplace for the first time since 1861.

December 1937: Mint and Treasury officials meet to discuss changing the nickel design to honor Thomas Jefferson.

December 1942: U.S. Mint hires Frank Gasparro.

December 2016: Mint Engraver Jim Licaretz retires.

1794 Flowing Hair Half Dollar. Overton-101a Variety. Image: PCGS.

Late December 1838: The New Orleans Mint strikes 35,000 dimes, wrapping up dime production for the branch mint’s inaugural year. The 30 dimes struck at New Orleans on May 8 were the first coins struck at the new mint.

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Coinweek is the top independent online media source for rare coin and currency news, with analysis and information contributed by leading experts across the numismatic spectrum.

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  1. December was an extremely busy month for the Mint and I now realize how important a month it was and is! An interesting day by day account in various years. Thank you.


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