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History of the New Orleans Mint

Rare gold mint coins tell an incredible story about America’s history. Philadelphia adopted gold as the standard currency back in the 18th century. The early 19th century later saw Napoleon, Lewis, and Clark join the list of high profile individuals who conducted their trade using gold coins. This growing demand for the precious metal drove different states to set up mints for striking gold coins. Here is a look at the interesting history of the New Orleans Mint that has since become a National Historic Landmark.

Launch of the New Orleans Mint

The New Orleans Mint exterior shot in May 2019

Located along the Mississippi River that feeds into the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans served as an excellent commercial hub. The state’s strategic location allowed it to process considerably higher trade. With a natural gold deposit close to the busy state, the government chose to create a branch mint in 1835.

At this time, the capacity of the Philadelphia Mint could not quickly meet the demand to distribute coins rapidly in the developing country, especially America’s Western frontier. The Panic of 1837 further fueled the need for more minted cash, enabling the growth of the New Orleans Mint.

New Orleans’ First Coins

The first minting operation involved Mexican gold bullion in 1838 before the mint tried its hand in silver cent pieces, gold dollars, and silver dollars. New Orleans Mint coins had the distinctive “O” mintmark that collectors love to this day. Minting operations went on until the beginning of the Civil War in 1861.

The Civil War and Beyond

When the Civil War began, the Confederacy needed gold coins to trade in Europe. The State of Louisiana seized the New Orleans Mint, requiring workers to strike coins with the existing US Mint presses. That same year, Confederacy President Jefferson Davis ordered the New Orleans Mint to strike coins for the South. The mint was damaged during the war but resumed minting in 1879. From 1879 to 1904, the New Orleans Mint mostly created silver coins and the Morgan Silver Dollar. As part of a program to produce foreign coins for other national governments, the mint struck 5.5 million coins for Mexico in 1907. In 1911, the US government formally decommissioned the mint, bringing to an end many years of faithful service. Today, the New Orleans Mint serves as a museum.

The Worth of New Orleans Mint Coins

New Orleans gold coins command high market prices, although finding high quality minted coins is rare since the overall minting quality was poor. A list of some of the more unique New Orleans minted gold coins can be found here, but this is by no means an all-inclusive list, as some examples have been known to fetch as much as seven figures.

With over 420 million coins under its name, the New Orleans Mint established itself as a legendary mint. Learn more about iconic coins and collecting from Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers. We can help you start a collection as well as value and purchase your coins. Contact us at 404-236-9744 to schedule an appointment.

Image courtesy of Carnaval.com Studios on Wikimedia Commons.

Tony Davis
Tony Davis