When the congressional legislation to issue the 2021 Morgan and Peace silver dollars to mark the centennial of the release of the 1921 Morgan silver dollars and the 1921 Peace silver dollars (the respective last and first coins
of those series) was being developed, provisions were included that called for
issuing coins at the various mints where those coins were originally issued.
Thus, there are 2021 Morgan and Peace dollars struck at the Philadelphia
Mint and new Morgan dollars that were made at the Denver and San Francisco
Mints, just as they were back then.
But when it came to the two other mints that produced these
iconic silver dollars – those located in Carson City, Nevada and New Orleans,
Louisiana that sported respectively “CC” and “O” mint marks – the bill’s
proponents and allies faced a dilemma.
Both of those mints have long been shuttered and are now museums. But if coin minting presses could somehow be transported
to those locations, perhaps coins could be struck there bearing the original
mint marks? Unfortunately, the economics of doing that were not feasible as it
would have been very expensive to transport the kind of high-speed presses need to strike hundreds of thousands of coins, so another way had to be found to honor those
other two mints that were part of silver dollar history.
The proposed solution was to create coins with “CC” and “O” privy
marks that would be similar to mint marks but would appear in raised ovals with incuse
lettering to make it clear they are not mint marks. This approach is one that
some collectors were not happy with, but it was very important to some of the
bill’s key supporters in Congress.
And despite misgivings about privy marks from some collectors, when those coins were offered in the spring, they sold out very quickly. And they are also the ones whose prices have risen the most
of the 6-coin set of 2021 silver dollars.
The famous California Gold Rush led eventually to the
establishment of a new branch of the U.S. Mint in San Francisco, but because
most of the gold and silver (a byproduct of gold) coins and bars struck there
went overseas, the need arose for another new branch mint not far from
California in Nevada, the location of many silver mines.
This led to the creation of the Carson City Mint with Congress
authorizing it in 1863, and the cornerstone being laid in 1866. But then
construction problems were encountered, and it was not until 1870 that the
first coins – Liberty Seated silver dollars – were struck there.
But apart from Trade dollars, the Carson City mint did not
produce very many coins during the early years of its operation. It was only after passage of the Bland-Allison
Act of 1878 that led to production of the Morgan dollar that significant
numbers of coins were made there, but the mint was repeatedly beset by various
problems such as budget cuts from Congress. The mint was eventually closed in
1893 but was reopened in 1899. However, its function as limited to refining
silver and gold into ingots, and it became a federal assay office.
As a result of all the problems the Carson City mint encountered,
most of the coins minted there, including the Morgan silver dollars struck there so popular
with today’s collectors, were minted in small numbers, which is why CC coins
are also among the rarest U.S. Mint issues in its history.
The mint continued as an assay office until 1933 when it failed to
be funded by Congress and closed, and in 1941 the old mint there became a
museum, which it remains to this day.
By 1800 gold was discovered in Georgia and North Carolina,
creating the need for branch mints closer to the source of the precious metals
used to create coins. In addition, the port of New Orleans, Louisiana was at
the time second only to New York as a source of foreign imports, including silver
and gold from the mines of South America.
This led in 1835 to a single law that created the mints of
Charlotte, Dahlonega and New Orleans with the third one striking coins from
1838 all the way to 1909 when it became a federal assay office. Today it houses
the Louisiana State Museum.
The New Orleans mint also encountered problems that led to
disruptions of its minting operations because the marshlands and swampy areas contributed
to outbreaks of malaria and yellow fever. There was also corruption and
cronyism among political appointees who ran the mint.
During the Civil War Louisiana seceded from the union, and
the mint in New Orleans was seized by state militia in 1861, and it was later
turned over to the Confederate States of America. During this period only gold double
eagles and silver half dollars were made there.
In 1862 Union forces briefly occupied the mint, and then it remained
vacant until the war ended in 1865. In 1867 the Mint Director at the time
recommended it only be used to distribute coins struck at other mints partly
because the hoarding of silver and gold coins during the war reduced the need
for new coins and because of damage to the machinery during the war. In 1876 it
opened as an assay office.
But once again the Morgan silver dollar that debuted in 1878
resulted in a reopening and refurbishing of the mint, and millions of silver dollars would be struck and stored there from 1879 through 1904. Other coins
were also made there after the mint reopened. Then the opening of the new
Denver mint and expansion of the Philadelphia mint in 1906 reduced the need for
a southern mint. Smaller numbers of coins were made in New Orleans until 1909
when it again became an assay office.
After extensive restoration and rebuilding the facility
reopened in 1981 as the Louisiana State Museum.
The 2021 CC and O privy mark silver dollars are a great way to pay tribute to these two famous branch mints.
This content was originally published here.