The Origins of the Denver Mint
As the United States of America grew and its population became more and more dispersed, the federal government responded by opening new Mint facilities. One such example is the Denver Mint, which opened in 1906 but traces its roots back to the 1850s. Not only was the city of Denver growing in population, but gold had been discovered in the area too. This called for the establishment of a federal assay office and, later, an official United States Mint. Today, despite its humble beginning, the facility is the largest producer of coins in the world.
While not as famous as California’s, the Colorado Gold Rush produced a significant amount of the yellow metal. To help convert the gold into trusted coinage, the firm of Clark Gruber & Company opened in Denver in the late 1850s. The company bought raw gold, then either converted it into coins or resold the metal to the federal government. In the first three years of operation, Clark Gruber purchased 77,000 ounces of gold and struck a remarkable $594,305 worth of privately-issued coins. To clarify these coins were not official legal tender, but the coins were trusted due to the firm’s reputation.
In 1862, Congress authorized a new branch mint in Denver. Rather than build a new facility, the government simply purchased the Clark Gruber facility for $25,000. Yet, the government decided not to continue minting coins at the newly-acquired Denver property; all of the gold was instead converted into bars and ingots. Gold depositors would bring raw dust and nuggets to the mint and, in exchange, receive bars stamped with their exact weight and fineness.
Finally, in 1896, Congress provided for the establishment of a new Denver Mint. This facility would be large enough to handle coinage production, but its opening was severely delayed due to a lack of funding. It wasn’t until 1906, a full decade after the property was purchased, that the new Denver Mint would officially open and begin striking coins. Despite the wait, mintage figures were robust right out of the gate. An astounding 167 million coins were made in Denver in 1906.
As the country’s population continued to shift westward, the Denver Mint’s importance grew. Eventually the San Francisco Mint’s focus shifted away from circulating coinage and more towards proof, commemorative and collector-edition coins. Thus, for the western portion of the country, the burden of circulating coinage production fell entirely on the Denver Mint. Before long Denver outpaced Philadelphia in terms of total mintages; today it produces more coins than any other mint facility in the world.