Think you know which location the “D” mint mark on a coin indicates?
You may need to think again. The likeliest answer, Denver, is only half correct. Georgia’s Dahlonega Mint produced gold coins long before the Mile-High City did.
A Forgotten Gold Rush
Few people aside from the most dedicated amateur historians know this, but the California gold rush wasn’t the first or even second major gold rush in the United States.
Rather, California’s outbreak of gold fever came after similar incidents in North Carolina and Georgia. It’s in Georgia where you can find the birthplace of the first “D” mint mark to grace American coinage: Dahlonega.
What Was the Georgia Gold Rush?
There are many stories about what launched Georgia’s gold rush. The first published account of gold in the area, though, appeared in a local newspaper in the summer of 1829.
After the account was published, thousands of prospectors swarmed north Georgia looking to strike it rich. Gold rush towns—mining camps that graduated to full-on settlements—soon followed.
New settlements weren’t the only thing that followed. In 1835, Congress chartered a new mint for the area. That mint, in Dahlonega, opened three years later in 1838.
The Dahlonega Mint went on to play a vital role in turning the raw gold mined from the area into coinage. It struck gold dollars, quarter eagles, and half eagles until 1861.
Today coin enthusiasts hold Dahlonega Mint coins in high regard because of their limited production and unique qualities.
Civil War Hits the Dahlonega Mint
Despite the quality of the Dahlonega coins, the Mint couldn’t withstand the onset of war and the decline of the Georgia gold rush.
For starters, its location encountered a series of challenges any region would find difficult to surmount:
- The profitability of mining gold fell.
- Veins of gold became more difficult to tap once miners pulled the most accessible deposits.
- California’s gold rush drew gold prospectors away from the South. (Today Georgia doesn’t even rank among the top 15 states rich with gold deposits.)
Then came the Civil War.
Georgia seceded from the Union in January 1861, putting the Dahlonega Mint into the hands of the Confederacy. In June of that year, Confederate leaders chose to close the Mint. It never reopened.
When we discuss Dahlonega Mint’s history, however, it’s worth noting that Dahlonega managed to mint more than $6 million in gold coins before shutting and that appreciators of gold coins continue to herald the Mint’s coins.
Denver Eclipses Dahlonega
While it wasn’t the first D to mint coinage, Denver picked up the D mint mark when that city’s mint began producing coins in 1906.
The year 1906 is important: It marks one way that coin enthusiasts know which mint produced what coin:
- Dahlonega Mint activity: 1838 to 1861
- Denver Mint activity: 1906 to today
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