07 May 2022
The United States Mint recently celebrated its 230th anniversary, reminding collectors that the Mint is one of the few Federal agencies whose duties are specifically referenced in the Constitution.
Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution established that “The Congress shall have the power . . . To coin money.”
The current United States Mint was created by the Coinage Act of 1792, passed by the United States Congress and signed into law by President Washington on 2 April 1792.
That first Coinage Act established the silver dollar as the nation’s unit of money and authorised the first national mint in the United States.
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Mint Deputy Director Ventris C. Gibson said:
"Throughout our 230-year history, the men and women who comprise our workforce have taken great pride in rendering the story of our Nation in enduring examples of numismatic art.
"Every coin manufactured by the Mint is the result of combined efforts of artists, engineers, production workers, and support staff who team up to transform an idea into a design, and then bring that design to life on a miniature canvas. I am proud to lead this organisation that, since 1792, has connected America through coins.”
The need for a National Mint
During the Colonial Period, monetary transactions were handled using foreign or colonial currency, livestock, or produce.
After the Revolutionary War, the U.S. was initially governed by the Articles of Confederation, which authorised states to mint their own coins. In 1788, the Constitution was ratified by a majority of states, and discussions soon began about the need for a national mint.
Congress chose Philadelphia, which was then the nation’s capital, as the site of our first Mint. President George Washington appointed a leading scientist, David Rittenhouse, as the first director. Rittenhouse bought two lots at 7th and Arch Streets to build a three-story facility, the tallest building in Philadelphia at the time. It was the first Federal building erected under the Constitution.
Coin production began immediately.
That same Coinage Act specified the following coin denominations: a copper cent and half cent; a silver dollar, half dollar, quarter, dime, and half dime; and a gold eagle ($10), half eagle ($5), and quarter eagle ($2.50).
In March 1793, the Mint delivered its first circulating coins – 11,178 copper cents. In 1795, the Mint became the first Federal agency to employ women when Sarah Waldrake and Rachael Summers were hired as adjusters.