U.S. Mint Dahlonega Georgia.

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The Dahlonega Mint, a significant establishment during the Georgia Gold Rush, emerged as a branch of the United States Mint. Its purpose was to facilitate miners in assaying and minting gold without the need to journey to the distant Philadelphia Mint. Situated at (34°31.8′N 83°59.2′W) in Dahlonega, Lumpkin County, Georgia, the mint marked its coins with the distinctive “D” mint mark, a symbol now employed by the Denver Mint, which opened in 1906, long after the Dahlonega Mint’s closure. Notably, all coins from Dahlonega are gold, spanning denominations of $1, $2.50, $3, and $5, with dates ranging from 1838 to 1861.

The creation of the Dahlonega Mint was authorized by the Mint Act of 1835, which allocated branches for gold and silver coinage across various locations, including Dahlonega. Ignatius Alphonso Few, the appointed commissioner, acquired ten acres for the mint’s construction, hiring architect Benjamin Towns for the task. Completed in 1837, the mint boasted cutting-edge machinery capable of producing fifty to sixty gold coins per minute. Under the supervision of Superintendent Dr. Joseph Singleton, the mint commenced operations in February 1838, minting its first coins in April of the same year.

The mint operated consistently from 1838 to 1861, producing $1.00, $2.50 (quarter eagles), $3.00 (in 1854 only), and $5.00 (half eagles). However, the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861 led to the seizure of the Dahlonega Mint by the Confederates. It is believed that some gold dollars and half eagles were minted under Confederate authority, with an unknown quantity of 1861-D gold dollars and approximately 1,597 1861-D half eagles struck. The total value of gold coins minted in Dahlonega during this period is estimated to exceed $6 million.

Following the Civil War, the U.S. government chose not to reopen the mint. The mint building remained unused until the founding of North Georgia College in 1873, where it served as the main academic and administrative building until a fire destroyed it in December 1878. The college erected a new building on the original foundations, now known as Price Memorial Hall, which continues to be used by the college.

Post-Civil War and Legacy: Following the Civil War, the Dahlonega Mint did not reopen, and its building lay unused until the founding of North Georgia College in 1873. Subsequently destroyed by fire in 1878, a new structure, Price Memorial Hall, rose from its foundations. Despite its short-lived existence, the Dahlonega Mint left an indelible mark on American numismatic history, with surviving coins considered rare and highly prized by collectors.

The Dahlonega Mint played a crucial role in transforming raw gold into official U.S. gold coins, making it an essential facility during the Southern gold rush. The mint’s production spanned from 1838 to 1861, with its distinctive “D” mint mark identifying its coins. Today, Dahlonega-minted gold coins are prized by collectors for their rarity, with less than 1% of the original low mintages believed to have survived. The quality and craftsmanship of these coins, coupled with their historical significance, contribute to their appeal among collectors.

Reverse of an 1843 half eagle struck at the Dahlonega Mint

Dahlonega Gold Type Set
    
 •  Type One Gold Dollar (1849-1854)
     •  Type Two Gold Dollar (1855 only)
     •  Type Three Gold Dollar (1856-1861)
     •  Classic Head Quarter Eagle (1839 only)
     •  Liberty Head Quarter Eagle (1840-1859)
     •  Three Dollar Gold Piece (1854 only)
     •  Classic Head Half Eagle (1838 only)
     •  Liberty Head Half Eagle Obverse Mintmark (1839 only)
     •  Liberty Head Half Eagle Reverse Mintmark (1840-1861)

The Dahlonega Mint:

The Dahlonega Mint

First of all, the records of the Dahlonega Mint, if they survived the Civil War intact, were probably thrown out within a few years by someone who did not wish to bother with them. Reports filed by the superintendents of this branch Mint to various official bodies still exist, but the working papers do not, and this has caused endless confusion—especially with respect to the rare coinages of 1861. A few years ago, one researcher hit upon the novel idea of checking some of the Confederate records in the Archives and did find some hitherto unknown figures, but not quite the definitive information we have all been seeking.

With respect to Dahlonega, not all research attempts end in success. In the early 1970s I heard rumors that the Dahlonega archives had survived the Civil War and were currently held in some private collection in Georgia. I made inquiries without success and then wrote the Governor of Georgia relating the rumors and asking for official help. His secretary later replied that the Governor’s office had had no better luck than I had had. About a year later I was visiting relatives not too far from Dahlonega and decided that a personal visit might work out. There is a small museum there, and when I mentioned the possibility of the old records existing they put two and two together and quickly decided that I was the pest that had sicked the Governor’s office on them. When I was able to show that my interest was legitimate everyone soon became friendly, but they believed that the records really had been destroyed.

Because the Dahlonega records themselves are missing there are two key areas where researchers can find critical material. The first is the letter file maintained at the Philadelphia Mint. These letters, consisting of a two-way correspondence between, generally, the mint director and the local superintendent, have been microfilmed and can be purchased for a nominal sum.

The other key area for this mint is the reports filed with the Treasury Department each quarter. These contain information on bullion deposits and coinage, payments of gold coin, ordinary receipts and expenditures, and summary payroll accounts. It is worth noting that such records are available for all of the mints for years prior to 1900 and may be used at the Archives. The pre-1814 accounts for the Philadelphia Mint, however, are fragmentary, since the British army used many of them for bonfires when they occupied the City of Washington during the War of 1812.

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