The Dahlonega Mint 1838 -1861
Inside This Report
• Gold Rush of the 1820's
• The Dahlonega Mint Opens
• A Tough Gold Piece to Find
The search for Gold, in what is now known as the State of Georgia, began in 1513 when Ponce de Leon searched the American south. In 1538, the Spanish Conquistadors with Hernando de Soto never found the elusive "Fountain of Youth" nor Gold in Florida and Georgia. Today, most people think of the "California" Gold Rush as the first great Gold find in North America. But, Gold was first discovered in North Carolina in 1799, then came discoveries in Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, and Virginia in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.
America's First Gold Rush To Georgia
The early Georgia "Gold Rush of the 1820s" is documented by these photos of Southern Gold miners shown here. Back then, the South was still a wild frontier with untamed forests, swamps, and the Cherokee Indians. (Years later the peaceful Cherokees were moved off their land to West of the Mississippi River.)
Most of the mining camps in the South and the village of Dahlonega were connected to the mint facilities in Philadelphia by nothing more than backwoods trails. There was no safe and easy way to move the heavy Gold Bullion to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia for turning the raw Gold into Gold Coinage.
In the 1830's it cost 5 per cent or more in insurance and transportation fees to ship Gold from the Georgia mining district to the Mint at Philadelphia. The journey was dangerous across Indian territory and holdups by bandits were common. The journey from the Gold fields often took several weeks. Once the unrefined Gold was received at the mint, it was converted into official U.S. Gold Coins, and then returned down South over the same bad trails to be paid back to the miners so they could purchase goods and supplies.
Indians Still Roamed Georgia
In these days, the Cherokee Indians lived in Georgia until miners invaded the territory during the first Gold rush. In the early 1830's, the lack of regional minting facilities in the South led to Congress authorizing an acute shortage of minted coins proved to be a severe limitation to everyone living in the South. As a result of Southern demand for nearby coinage facilities, the U.S. Congress passed a bill establishing three branch mints in March of 1835.
To give you some background on the times, during this era carpenters could be hired for $1.50 a day. Gold mining was so successful that cotton planters moved many of their black slaves into the Georgia mines to work the Gold. Each man, slave or free, worked from sunrise to sunset 12 hours a day, six days a week.
The Dahlonega Georgia Mint Opens
The Dahlonega Mint issued its first Gold Coins in 1838 with the imprint D on each coin. The first $5 Liberty "Half Eagles" were struck in January of 1838 in Dahlonega. Over the following 24 years, Gold Dollars, Quarter Eagles, and Half eagles were issued at the Dahlonega Mint. A small quantity of $3 Gold pieces were minted in 1854.
The Mint director in Dahlonega supervised a small staff of just three men who took the raw Gold from the smelting stage through to the final striking of Gold Coins. The raw Gold was assayed, rolled into sheets, and coined into official legal tender U.S. Gold Coins, each bearing the official "D" mint mark. At the Dahlonega Mint, dies cracked regularly. Due to a press design flaw often only 600 pieces were coined before both halves of the dies had to be replaced.
The Gold coins from the Dahlonega Mint were struck only from 1838 to 1861 in very small quantities. A total of only four sizes of Gold Coins were ever minted. Many dates had low original mintages and those surviving in "Mint Condition" are extremely hard to find. Today, these Dahlonega Gold Coins, issued before the Civil War, are considered by coin experts to be some of the most highly sought after collectors items. Devoted Rare Coin collectors like to build different types of sets of all four denominations of Dahlonega Gold Coins.
Three Dollar Gold Pieces Tough To Find
Among the rarest and most sought after Dahlonega coins are the $3 gold pieces. Dies for the $3 Gold piece were shipped from Pennsylvania to Dahlonega in June of 1854. There was little demand and only 1,120 were struck. Today only 177 of these "D Mint" gold coins have been certified authentic and graded by PCGS and NGC combined.
Southern Mints Closed During the Civil War
In 1849, the miners abandoned Georgia mines, and threatened to make a Ghost Town out of Dahlonega. Later, Georgia seceded from the Union in 1861. Coining continued under the authority of the state of Georgia and 1,597 half eagles were coined at the D Mint in 1861 with the imprint of the United States of America. However, they were operating under a mandate from the Congress of the Southern Confederacy. The Southern Branch mints were closed on June 1, 1861. The Dahlonega Mint never reopened after the Civil War.
Coins bearing the Southern Branch mint marks of C, D and O are highly prized collectors items today in all grades. Those preserved in original "Mint Condition" are hard to find and can be quite expensive. Many dates are rare and nearly impossible
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