The Denver Mint is a busy branch of the U.S. Mint, producing millions of coins every day. Named for its location in Denver, Colorado, the Denver Mint has a fascinating history that dates back to the 19th century, before Denver was even a proper city and before Colorado was a state. The U.S. government established the Denver Mint in 1863 in response to a gold rush that was occurring in the area. Since this time, the scope and purpose of the Denver Mint has evolved to meet the needs of the country.
The Pikes Peak Gold Rush
Miners discovered gold in the land that would become Colorado around 1850. However, the gold rush was in full swing in California at this time. The California gold rush peaked in about 1852, and it gradually declined after this year. People who continued to seek gold arrived in the Denver area in 1858 after hearing about gold found near Pikes Peak. As fortunate gold-seekers found gold nuggets and dust, they needed help processing their gold. Out of necessity, many people carried small pouches filled with gold dust, and they made purchases with pinches of dust. However, this was inconvenient and difficult. The alternative was converting the dust or nuggets into coins, but this was a challenge as well. Coin-making facilities were not present in the Denver area, so people had to send their gold back east. This was a risky and expensive proposition with the threat of loss or theft during transport and involved hefty shipping charges.
Filling the Need for Coins
In response to the people’s need for banking and coining in Denver, Austin Clark, Milton Clark, and E.H. Gruber began a business named Clark, Gruber & Co. in 1860. This company was formed as a bank and coining business, and it served the people in the area so they would not need to ship their gold back east any longer. The company erected an impressive brick building in Denver, and people quickly began using its services to process their gold. The first coins produced by the company were created on July 4, 1860. The rate of production was approximately 15 to 20 coins per minute. Clark, Gruber & Co. minted quarter-eagles, half-eagles, eagles, and double-eagles during its short tenure.
The Establishment of the Denver Mint
The federal government stepped into the operation a few years later. In 1863, the federal government purchased the business of Clark, Gruber & Co. Initially, the facility located in Denver worked as an assay office, checking gold for purity, weighing it, melting it, and then casting the gold into bars. A short time later, miners discovered silver in the area. This prompted the assay office to begin processing large amounts of both gold and silver. Eventually, Congress decided to move forward with a new building for the facility in Denver, Colorado. Planning the building took a number of years due to its size and detailed architecture that actually resembles an Italian palace. The new office began operating as an assay office in 1904. However, the purchase and organization of minting equipment took more time. The Denver Mint began official operation in 1906.
Evolution of the Denver Mint
During the first year of operation, the Denver Mint made 167,371,035 silver and gold coins with a total value of $27 million. Today, the Denver Mint produces every denomination of currently circulating coins. The Denver Mint also manufactures yearly uncirculated coin sets and special commemorative coins, all with the Denver “D” mint mark stamped on the coins to show where they were minted. Current coin production at the Denver Mint is 50 million or more coins every day. As one of the oldest institutions in Denver, Colorado, the Denver Mint is a historic building. Preservationists nominated the Denver Mint for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 to protect the building in the event of construction of a replacement building in the future. A new building was never built, however. Public tours are available today for visitors who wish to see the facility and learn how coins are produced at the Denver Mint.
- Denver Mint Facility
- About the Denver Mint
- How Your Money Is Made: A Look Inside the Denver Mint
- Legendary Coins & Currency: Clark, Gruber & Co.
- Women in the Gold Rush (PDF)
- Western Colorado History Gold and the United States of America
- The Gold Rush and the Plains of Colorado
- Utah Farmers and the Pikes Peak Gold Rush
- Denver, Colorado
- Anniversary of the Colorado Gold Rush (PDF)
Fun fact: There could be a chance that some of the money produced could still be in circulation. While the building doesn’t produce them anymore for circulation, you can get coins from the Denver Mint gift shop. Who knows, you might be able to pay a contractor with them (though you probably shouldn’t). Having one of these coins would be a major addition to your coin collection.
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