Date of Service: 1906 to Present
Mint Mark: "D"
The US Denver Mint was established after the
discovery of Colorado gold in 1858. Even though the Mint was authorized
by Washington DC in 1862, many decades passed before the first Denver
coin was struck. Things have changed quite a bit since then. Today, the
Denver Mint is the world’s top coining facility, producing more coins
than anywhere else.
|United States Mint Facilities|
|San Francisco||Carson City||Denver||West Point|
|Gold Fever Strikes the Colorado Rockies|
On July 9th, 1858, William G. Russell of Georgia
struck gold near the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte
River, located at the foot of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, in what was
then the western edge of the Kansas Territory. Others had found traces
of Colorado gold in previous years, but it was Russell's discovery of
high grade ore that triggered yet another great American gold rush.
Prior to Russell's arrival, only one family had taken up permanent
residence in the vicinity, but they were soon to have many neighbors!
Within a few short months, the lure of riches
attracted hundreds of
fortune seekers to the area. Two small rival towns were established on
both sides of Cherry Creek; the encampment to the south was christened
as Auraria (Latin word for gold), after William G. Russell's hometown
in Georgia, and on the north side was Denver City, named in honor of
James W. Denver, Governor of the Kansas Territory.
|A Private Mint Opens in Denver City|
Just as Denver was ready to come into its own,
larger amounts of gold
were found in the mountains just west of the city. To the south,
prosperous gold mines were opened in the shadow of Colorado's most
famous landmark, Pike's Peak.
Three resourceful businessmen, brothers Austin
and Milton Clark, and
Emanuel Gruber recognized the need for coinage to service the
burgeoning population, and set out to capitalize upon the opportunity.
In 1860, at a cost of $5000, they built a two-story brick building set
upon a stone basement foundation, on the northwest corner of McGaa and
and "G" Streets (today 16th and Market) in Denver City.
After wading through some legal research, the
trio determined that a
private mint was indeed legal. On July 5, 1860, the coin presses, dies,
and other equipment needed to strike coins were declared operational.
Later that month, the first Clark, Gruber, & Co. gold coins were
struck and released to a coin-starved public.
|The US Denver Mint is Authorized|
The opening salvos of the American
Civil War were fired in April, 1861. In response to that great
conflict, gold and silver coins, always considered a safe harbor in
perilous times, were hoarded by an uncertain and fearful public.
Moreover, government sponsored paper money was viewed dubiously. As the
war raged, the Clark and Gruber Mint ceased coining operations, but
continued to issue bank notes, redeemable at full value in gold coins
minted by the firm in 1860-61. So while regions of the country closer
to the Civil War battlefields were suffering a currency crises, at
least in the Denver area, the monetary system was relatively stable.
Abraham Lincoln named William Gilpin as the
first governor of the
Colorado Territory. Upon arriving in Denver in May, 1861, Gilpin
rapidly organized a territorial militia to defend the Colorado gold
fields against a possible invasion from the Confederacy. In the summer
of 1861, Gilpin headed up a Republican Party convention held in Golden,
where the local political powers declared their intention to push for a
new U.S. branch mint in Denver. The Clark brothers and Gruber openly
supported this proposal.
On December 19, 1861, Bennet introduced a bill
to create a US Mint in
Denver. It was eventually passed by both houses of Congress, and on
April 26, 1862, President Lincoln's signature was added to make it
official: the Denver Mint was born!
|"Indian Tribes, Rebel Emissaries, and Bad White Men"|
The new Denver Mint took up residence inside the
Clark, Gruber &
Co. building as intended. Although the facility was equipped with assay
and coining equipment, ultimately, no coins were ever struck there.
The Denver Mint was stuck in the assay mode for
years. As law and order
slowly gained a foothold in the American West, the city of Denver grew
steadily in size, stature, and reputation, but still, no "thumbs up"
from Washington to commence coining operations.
|The First Coins of the Denver Mint|
On February 20, 1895, Congress voted to
authorize construction of a
new, fully equipped facility for the Denver Mint. At long last, Denver
was about to fulfill its mission as host for a US branch mint!
After a final spending tally of $800,000, the
new Mint was finally
ready for occupancy in 1904. All during this time, the old Clark,
Gruber & Co. building continued to function in its familiar role as
an assay office.
In its first year, the Denver Mint produced 167
million gold and silver
coins, totaling $27 million face value, by far the most successful
beginning of any US branch mint in history.
|Robberies, Gold Depository, Expansion|
The early years of the Denver Mint's new home
were indeed eventful. In
1920, a Mint employee, Orville Harrington, smuggled some $80,000 worth
of pure gold (in the form of by-products of the coin manufacturing
process called anodes). The treacherous employee was caught red-handed
burying the stolen gold in his yard by a suspicious Secret Service
agent who was trailing Harrington. After receiving a sentence of 10
years in the slammer, Harrington was paroled after serving only three
and a half years.
A massive dragnet ensued, but it took 18 days to
find the bandit's shot
up vehicle inside a rented Denver garage. Sitting in the front seat was
the frozen body of one of the men, who apparently died of gunshot
wounds inflicted during the robbery.
In 1934, the Denver Mint undertook a new role:
that of a government
gold bullion depository. Billions of dollars worth of gold were
transferred from the San
Francisco Mint to Denver, thought by many to be a more secure
location because of its close proximity to the geographical center of
the United States.
|The Mint Today.... Still Going STRONG!!|
The heartbeat of the US Denver Mint today
remains the 1904 building.
While the exterior of the turn-of-the-century edifice has changed very
little over time, the coining operation inside is world class, in terms
of sheer production volumes. In the year 2008, the Denver Mint alone
struck about 5.37 billion coins, a quantity that, believe it or not, is
still well below its full manufacturing capacity.
Another top Denver tourist attraction is the
16th Street Mall. The
pedestrian and transit way adventure stretching through the heart of
the city's historic downtown district is characterized by beautiful
tree-lined streets, quaint shops, and roaming musicians. The 16th
Street and Market intersection where Denver's first mint, the Clark,
Gruber & Co. building, stood a century ago, is situated toward the
northwest end of this rejuvenated entertainment hub.
|Saga of the U.S. Mint Chapters|
Return to the Saga of the U.S. Mint home.
|1|| American Numismatic Association.
|2||Eitemiller, David J., Historic
Tours: The Denver Mint.
Frederic, CO: Jende-Hagan Corporation, 1983.
|3||Helmers, Dow. "The Denver Mint Robbery,
Denver Post, December 7, 1975.
|4||United States Department of the Treasury.|
|5||United States Mint.|