From the Gold Rush to the Granite Lady: A Look at the San Francisco Mint
In 1848, James Marshall found flecks of gold in the water around Sutter’s Mill. The discovery created national headlines and spread like wildfire around the country. Once word had spread, the California Gold Rush of 1849 was officially started. In that year alone, 90,000 people arrived in the wild west with hopes and dreams of striking it rich. Interestingly, only half of those prospectors were from America, with the other half arriving as immigrants from all around the world.
On July 3, 1852, after 4 non-stop years of gold mining, the United States Congress approved the establishment of a branch Mint in California. The Secretary of Treasury Thomas Corwin, who served under President Millard Fillmore, chose San Francisco as the location of this future Mint due its proximity to a massive port as well as the Sierra Nevada mountains where the gold strikes were mined
When the San Francisco Mint finally opened in 1854, it produced over $4 million in gold coins in just a single year. Prospectors brought their precious metals in to be assayed and sold them to the Mint. When gold was assayed that meant that the purity of the metal was tested to ensure quality. It is common for gold bars that have been assayed to be stamped to indicate their value and place of origin.
The demand for gold coins was so high that the Mint quickly outgrew the original building within the decade. On July 2, 1864, Congress approved purchasing a site for the second San Francisco Mint building.
The Granite Lady
When this building was completed in 1874, it became affectionately known as the Granite Lady, referring to the basement which was made of granite to prevent tunneling into the underground vaults. Even the great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake couldn’t shake the Granite Lady, as it was one of the few buildings that survived the disaster. People who had lost their homes sought refuge in the solid walls of the Granite Lady in the days and weeks following the catastrophe. In 1937, the current San Francisco Mint opened, and the Granite Lady became known as the Old Mint.
Nearly 20 years after the current San Francisco Mint was opened, coinage production was briefly stopped. In that time, the Old Mint was designated a National Historic Landmark and the new mint was designated as an assay office, recalling the days when prospectors would bring their raw gold to be tested.
Today the San Francisco Mint produces clad and silver proof sets and commemorative coins. While the Granite Lady is not open for tours, community events are regularly held in the building.
Rare Collectibles TV features stunning gold from the California Gold Rush and struck at the San Francisco Mint such as:
1859-S Liberty Head Gold Double Eagle AU53
1891-S Liberty Head Gold Double Eagle MS62
1898-S Liberty Head Gold Double Eagle MS64
1898-S Liberty Head Gold Double Eagle MS63
1898-S Liberty Head Gold Double Eagle MS62