USA Coin Album: Scrapbook Gold - Part 4

Posted on 8/11/2015

With writer’s block paralyzing my brain, it’s time to turn once again to my collection of large scrapbooks for inspiration.

This month’s theme is provided by a brief sidebar article that ran in the July-August 1999 issue of Rare Coin Review, the house organ of what was then Bowers and Merena Galleries. It relates the dates on which coinage commenced at the Denver Mint for each denomination from 1906-13. The editor of RCR did not know the provenance of this information, as it was simply found amidst a pile of other documents and letters, but it provide us now with some interesting trivia.

The Denver Mint was established April 26, 1862 when Congress approved the purchase of Clark, Gruber and Company of that city. This firm had coined gold pieces with its own stamp in 1860-61 and thus possessed the necessary facility and equipment. Denver, however, became a United States mint in name only, as it operated solely as a federal assay office for the next 40+ years. It was not until 1906 that the Denver Mint finally struck USA coins in a large structure built for that purpose two years earlier.

Coining actually commenced October 28, 1905 with a commemorative token marking the mint’s official opening. This piece was produced in both bronze and silver and measures 35mm, about the size of a double eagle. One side is plain, and the other states simply DENVER / 1905. The edge of these tokens is reeded. Bronze examples are fairly scarce, and the silver striking is genuinely rare.

The honor of being the first actual coin struck at the Denver Mint goes to the quarter dollar, production of which commenced February 15, 1906. Some 3,280,000 pieces would be coined by year’s end, making this issue one that collectors easily can acquire in any grade shy of gem Mint State. The minting of dimes began almost two weeks later on February 27. This is another common, inexpensive issue, as more than four million were produced at Denver in 1906. The first half dollar fell from the coin press on March 2, and its yearly total was similar to that of the dime. All three of these coins bear Charles Barber’s classical bust of Liberty, and they would make a nice souvenir set that any collector can afford to build.

Ten days later, on March 12, the coining of gold began with the first of 981,000 gold eagles that would leave the mint by year’s end. While this mintage would be rather low for a silver or minor coin and would result in a scarce issue, the figure is not unusual for gold coins, which didn’t circulate in the conventional sense. Many Mint State or lightly worn examples survive of the 1906-D Eagle, and it’s considered a common date within the Coronet Liberty series. The first double eagles, or $20 pieces, were struck April 4. The total number produced in 1906 is 620,250, and this issue is common in grades below MS 64. Gems are quite scarce when compared to the 1907-D Double Eagle which had a mintage not much higher. For reasons unknown, the coining of half eagles at Denver did not begin until June 9, 1906. Only 320,000 pieces were minted, but this figure is not unusual for the period, and the 1906-D Half Eagle is considered common in all grades below MS 65.

In subsequent years the first coining of each denomination typically occurred early in the calendar year. For 1907, the sole exception was the double eagle, not minted until September 30. The other start dates were as follows: dime, January 9; quarter dollar, March 7; half dollar, January 31; half eagle, March 16; and eagle, March 8. The year 1908 reveals the following: dime, January 6; quarter dollar, January 20; half dollar, January 6; half eagle, November 5 (coining was delayed until the new Indian Head dies arrived); eagle, June 12 (no motto type), August 12 (motto added); double eagle, March 14 (no motto), and July 31 (with motto).

1909’s production began early for all denominations coined: dime, February 27; quarter dollar, January 13; half eagle, January 30; eagle, January 12; and double eagle, January 5. There was a redundancy of coins at the beginning of 1910, and several denominations commenced late in the year: dime, December 3; quarter dollar, July 20; half eagle, January 19; eagle, January 25; and double eagle, September 19.

1911 marked the debut of the first Denver Mint cent, May 20; dime, January 30; quarter dollar, May 24; half dollar (the first since 1908), December 8; quarter eagle (the first of this denomination at Denver), April 18; half eagle, April 24; eagle, April 26; and double eagle, January 28. 1912’s coinage began as follows: cent, January 2; nickel (the first issue from Denver), February 5; dime, May 3; and half dollar, November 13. Denver’s coinage was again incomplete in 1913: cent, May 9; nickel, February 24; half dollar, January 6; and double eagle, January 28.

These dates reveal that the federal mints simply didn’t coin denominations that were not needed in particular years. Contrast this practice with that of recent years, in which every denomination is coined routinely for collectors, whether or not the coins fulfill any role in general circulation.

David W. Lange's column, “USA Coin Album,” appears monthly in The Numismatist, the official publication of the American Numismatic Association.

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