My newest book, From Mine to Mint — American Coinage Operations
and Technology 1833-1937, developed out of frustration with the
inability to find reliable, detailed information on how the United
States Mints operated and the technology they used. Available
information was scattered and repetitive, or sometimes contradictory.
While reviewing published coin literature, I kept finding more
questions than answers. Coin presses and striking were described in
very general terms, but nothing seemed to tell me how pressure was
adjusted or how dies fit a certain kind of press. Even the most basic
of descriptions confused Franklin Peale’s toggle-press with others
made in France and Germany. Well-known published sources often
disagreed on when and how something was done, or glossed over
discrepancies. Activities as routine as rolling ingots or manually
adjusting planchets remained obscure, and the Mint’s regulations
offered no help in understanding how and why certain operations were
performed. Some subjects, such as parting and refining gold and
silver, were explained in non-numismatic publications that rarely
applied the processes to practical coinage production.
More than a decade ago, while researching the three Renaissance of
American Coinage books, I discovered documents that offered insights
into production of Proof coins, 1907 pattern pieces and details of
model reductions. Over the years, further research led to additional
discoveries of descriptions of Mint equipment and operations that were
largely unknown to collectors. The outcome is a new book titled From
Mine to Mint — American Coinage Operations and Technology 1833-1937.
The coins we collectors examine and appreciate are products of
their times. They were made with the machinery, technological
knowledge and materials available to Mint workers of eras quite
different from our own. By understanding the equipment available to
the Mints, the ways it was used and the operating procedures in force
at any particular time, we can better understand how and why coins
possess certain features. Overdates, repunched lettering, striking
errors and many other defects can be fully understood only if we have
a clear vision of the technology used to produce coins.
The beginning date of From Mine to Mint, 1833, is the year a new
Mint opened in Philadelphia. It is a convenient starting point that
permits a little backward look, but largely points the way forward. As
an end date, 1937 would seem an unusual choice; however, it is the
year Mint Director Nellie Tayloe Ross showed she understood how the
Mints were operating and the year she exerted her authority for
fundamental change in accounting and protection of America’s treasure.
This period covered in the book saw the gradual technological
transition of our Mints from steam power to electricity; from wood and
coal furnaces to methane gas and electric induction heating; from
self-contained mechanical factories to commercially dependent
producers; from practical mechanical organization to standards-based
operations. Thus, it was in this time that the Mints came to maturity
in parallel with American expansion, manufacturing and nationalism.
With access to From Mine to Mint, collectors, numismatists,
scholars and historians can develop a much better view of how the
United States Mints operated. This will help other researchers refine
their knowledge of how defects occurred and why the Mints operated in
seemingly illogical ways.
Thus, my goal was to present how the Mints really worked. In
essence, From Mine to Mint is a mini-encyclopedia of U.S. Mint
technology and operations of the 19th century and first part of the
Roger W. Burdette is the author of multiple books on numismatics,
including the award-winning, three-volume work Renaissance of American Coinage.