Today, coins of the Carson City Mint are, as a class, more
appreciated than are issues from any other of the Mints in operation
in the past two centuries. There is even a club, Carson City Coin
Collectors of America.
Politics became important in the operation of the Carson City Mint,
and logic was often discarded.
What could have been a Mint to turn out huge quantities of silver
and gold coins really produced relatively few in comparison to the
Philadelphia and San Francisco Mints. As a result, most mintages
across the denominations are low.
In normal situations, low mintage means a combination of rarity and
high price on the numismatic market, with a third aspect, Mint State
preservation, leading to extremely expensive coins. Examples of this
are the Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans Mint coins made from
1838 until each of the facilities closed in 1861.
The marvelous exception to this rule was caused by the Bland-Allison
Act of Feb. 28, 1878. At the time the Silver Question, as it was
called, was the main and most controversial subject in American politics.
In brief, in the 1860s the owners of silver mines in the West
prospered greatly. That changed in the 1870s when several European
countries went off the silver standard while at the same time more
discoveries were made and more mines opened in the United States. Two
The Democratic Party wanted the free and unlimited coinage of
silver, and the Republican Party wanted commerce to be based on gold
coins. By 1878, a silver dollar of 412.5 grains had just 89 cents
worth of metal, while a gold $20 double eagle was worth a full $20.
The Bland-Allison Act mandated that Uncle Sam buy from $2 million to
$4 million worth of silver each month from Western mines. What to do
with it? Coin it into silver dollars for easy storage and counting.
Each Mint was sent large quantities of silver. The Carson City Mint
struck millions of coins, including more than 1 million in each year
from 1882 to 1884.
Most Carson City Mint coins were stored in vaults. In the 20th
century most of them were rediscovered in Treasury vaults and came
onto the numismatic market. When asked, “Can you recommend a coin to
give as a gift to start someone collecting?” my reply is: “An
inexpensive Mint State 1882-CC, 1883-CC, or 1884-CC dollar.”
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