When the first United States Mint was established in 1792, there were no plans to open any additional branch facilities. However, this was before the country experienced tremendous population growth—and precious metals were discovered far away from the Northeastern seaboard. By the 1830s, the federal government realized that two additional facilities were needed to handle gold and silver discovering in the South. This led to the opening of the Charlotte, North Carolina and Dahlonega, Georgia mints.
Unbeknownst to many, North Carolina experienced a gold rush in the late 1790s and early 1800s. It’s uncertain as to when the first gold discovery took place in the 1790s, but word did not spread until around 1800-1810. Much of the yellow metal extracted in North Carolina was sent to the Philadelphia Mint. By 1824, over 2,500 ounces of Carolina gold had been deposited with the federal government in Philly.
Congress finally authorized a new Charlotte mint facility in 1835 and coinage operations began in 1838. The new mint was set up strictly to covert locally extracted gold into coins; it did not produce any silver or copper coins whatsoever. Commensurately, mintages were extremely low year after year; all Charlotte gold coins are quite scarce. Numismatists also know that the coins immediately entered circulation and saw extensive use, as “C-mint” gold issues are typically seen with heavy wear.
The Dahlonega Mint shares a similar history with its Charlotte cousin. Like the Charlotte facility, the Dahlonega Mint began operations in 1838 in response to a local gold rush. Georgia gold was first found in 1828 but discoveries fizzled out by the 1840s. Since Dahlonega had even less local gold to convert into money, “D-mint” coinage is extremely rarer and even more difficult to find than Charlotte issues. Again, almost all surviving pieces in existence are seen with significant wear.
Both the Charlotte and Dahlonega Mints were seized by the Confederacy in 1861. In fact, some 1861-D gold dollars and half eagles were struck under the supervision of Confederate Troops. Coinage operations did not continue past 1861, as the CSA had very little gold (or silver) and preferred to issue paper money instead.
Today, southern branch mint gold coins are considered extremely desirable collectibles. They have a strong collector following and sell for a minimum of $1500 per coin. Uncirculated specimens are quite rare with most issues fetching prices in the $10k-$50k range. Dahlonega and Charlotte gold coins are also notorious for being weakly struck and exhibiting rough surfaces; as a result fully-impressed, clean coins command a premium in the marketplace.