The First Philadelphia Mint

The First Mint for United States Coins, The Philadelphia Mint

From the earliest colonial times in the early 17th century down to the Revolutionary War and the following Confederation period, money in the channels of commerce consisted of foreign issues—mainly the silver and gold coins of Spanish-American countries, to which were added coins from England, France, Italy, and other European countries. Some coins were struck in America, beginning with the New England issues of 1652, but not enough were made to become common in circulation.

The Mint Act of April 2, 1792, changed that. President George Washington was authorized to construct a federal coinage facility. Equipment was purchased and on an interim basis stored in the shop of John Harper in Philadelphia. Two buildings were purchased on Seventh Street between Market and Arch streets. On July 31, work commenced on the foundation for another structure to the rear of the first two. The Mint was occupied in the following autumn, after which several types of pattern coins were made. The first coinage for circulation consisted of copper cents placed into the channels of commerce in March 1793. The first silver coins—half dollars and dollars—were delivered in November 1794, and the first gold half eagles in July 1795.

The first Philadelphia Mint remained in operation for many years. On July 1, 1829, the foundation was laid for the second Philadelphia Mint, and silver half dimes were struck on this occasion (see lot 1017). The new premises were occupied in 1832, after which the old Mint was used privately for many different businesses over a long period of time, until it was razed in the second decade of the 20th century.