The first coins at the Carson City Mint, Seated Liberty dollars, were
struck Feb. 10, 1870. No coinage occurred there from 1886 to 1888.
Operations ceased in 1893. Why?
The mines and mills of the Comstock Lode 15 miles from Carson City
provided the metal for coinage. How convenient! Why, then, was most of
this precious metal shipped to the San Francisco Mint 240 miles away?
The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, 1887, summarized the problem:
“It will also be shown that the mint at Carson has at no period of
its history received considerable deposits from the mines of the
Comstock Lode, their product having continued to be sent to San
Francisco for coinage, the same as before the establishment of that
mint. It will appear, indeed, that very important considerations, now
affected by the cost of transportation of bullion, specie, and
currency to and from Carson, are most unfavorable to the operations of
coinage at the mint, and even to the minor operations of an assay
office now carried on at that institution.”
As much as we dearly love Carson City Mint coins today, there was no
interest in them by numismatists until the end of operations. In 1893,
Augustus G. Heaton suggested that readers of his new Mint Marks
book could order Carson City Mint coins directly from the source. It
was almost too late. John M. Clapp of Tidioute, Pa., a prosperous oil
man, ordered a full set. He may have been the only one to have done so.
Today all Carson City Mint silver and gold coins are highly prized,
with some of the rarest being issues bearing dates from 1870 to about
1873. Dimes were made from 1871 to 1878, 20-cent pieces in 1875 and
1876, quarter dollars and half dollars from 1870 to 1878, Seated
Liberty and Morgan silver dollars from 1870 to 1893, Trade dollars
from 1873 to 1878, and gold coins from 1870 to 1893.
The facility is best remembered for the Morgan dollars made there,
produced by the millions to satisfy the requirements of the
Bland-Allison Act, a political boondoggle deluxe. The coins were
neither needed nor wanted in commerce.
Most of them were stored, only to be dispersed in quantity by the
Treasury Department from the 1950s until they were all gone.
Morgan dollars, Carson City Mint and otherwise, form the backbone of
the market for Mint State 19th century coins today.
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