San Francisco Mint – United States Mint.

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The San Francisco Mint, a branch of the United States Mint, has a rich history dating back to 1854 when it was established to serve the gold mines of the California Gold Rush. Located at 608 Commercial Street, it initially played a pivotal role in converting gold bullion into coins, generating an impressive $4 million worth of gold coins in its first year of operation. In recognition of its historical significance, the building was designated a San Francisco Designated Landmark in 1970.

By Frevi – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

As the demand for coin production continued to surge due to economic growth, a new facility was required. Construction of a more spacious building commenced in 1869, located at Fifth Street and Mission Street. The mint operations relocated to this new facility in 1874, designed by Alfred B. Mullett in a classical Greek Revival style. This impressive structure was constructed using sandstone quarried from Newcastle Island, British Columbia, and was renowned for its durability.

The Old San Francisco Mint, as it came to be known, featured a central pedimented portico flanked by projecting wings, forming an E-shaped layout around a central enclosed courtyard. Remarkably, this design played a significant role in preserving the building during the devastating 1906 earthquake and subsequent fire, as its solid construction withstood the catastrophe. During this crisis, the Mint housed a substantial portion of the United States’ gold reserves, valued at $300 million at the time.

The Old San Francisco Mint earned its status as a National Historic Landmark in 1961 and was eventually sold to the city of San Francisco in 2003, with plans for adaptive reuse, including its transformation into a museum and event space.

In 1937, the San Francisco Mint moved into its current building, becoming the primary facility for proof coinage production from 1955 onwards. However, it also continued to strike some circulating coinage until 1968. Since 1975, the San Francisco Mint has primarily focused on producing proof coinage, with a few exceptions, such as the Susan B. Anthony dollar from 1979 to 1981 and a portion of cents in the early 1980s. Notably, it has been responsible for striking circulation-strike America the Beautiful quarters marked with an “S” mintmark, exclusively available for collectors since 2012.

From 1962 to 1988, the San Francisco Mint held the official status of an assay office before regaining its mint status in 1988. Its location is now at 155 Hermann Street, and it rarely admits visitors, except for rare exceptions like the commemorative tours in 1987, which celebrated the Mint’s 50th anniversary.

The San Francisco Mint has a fascinating history, with its Granite Lady building having endured natural disasters and fires while maintaining a crucial role in the country’s financial stability. It is renowned for producing coins of exceptional numismatic quality, including the rare 1854-S Quarter Eagle. Today, it remains a significant producer of collectible coins in the United States and holds the distinction of having the oldest mint mark in the country.

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