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All Posts Tagged With: "San Francisco Mint"

San Francisco Double Eagles: A Date by Date Analysis Part Three

By Doug Winter –

Part One
Part Two

In 1877, a third type of double eagle was created when the reverse valuation was changed from TWENTY D to TWENTY DOLLARS. Liberty Head double eagles were produced with just one interruption (1886) from 1877 through 1907. This is a very easy series to complete as all thirty issues are readily available in the lower Uncirculated grades and many of the post-1890 date can even be found in Gem.

I would recommend this series for beginning collectors or advanced collectors who are more interested in grade than absolute rarity. What follows is a date-by-date analysis of each issue.

1877-S: This is the most common Type Three San Francisco double eagle from the 1870’s. It is common in grades up to an including MS62. It becomes scarce in MS63 and is very rare in MS64 and above. Most are seen with good luster and nice color but heavily abraded surfaces. The finest known is Stack’s 1/09: 1420, graded MS65 by NGC, which set a record price for the date at $29,900.

1878-S: The 1878-S is scarcer than the 1877-S but it is still a fairly easy date to find in grades up to an including MS62. In MS63 it is rare and it is extremely rare above this. The finest that I have personally seen is the high end PCGS MS63, ex Heritage 9/06: 4139, which sold for a strong $23,000. This date is characterized by soft, frosty luster and heavy abrasions on the surfaces.

This is easily the scarcest San Francisco Type Three double eagle from the 1870’s and it is one of the harder SF issues of this type to locate. It is scarce even in the lowest Uncirculated grades and it is very scarce in properly graded MS62. In MS63, the 1879-S is very rare and there is but one example graded better than this, a PCGS MS64, ex Heritage 9/07: 3851, which sold for an amazing $63,250. Virtually every known example is marred by excessive bagmarks and many have impaired luster as a result.

1880-S: The 1880-S is only marginally scarce in MS60 to MS61 but it becomes a hard date to find in properly graded MS62. It is rare in MS63 and very rare above this but there are a few very high quality pieces known. The best is a superb NGC MS66, ex Heritage 2004 ANA: 7626, which brought a hefty $92,000 and the second best is an NGC MS65, ex Bowers and Merena 2/06: 603 that was bid up to $54,625. These are the two best early date Type Three San Francisco double eagles that I have personally seen.

1881-S: The 1881-S is much more available in the MS60 to MS62 range than the 1879-S and 1880-S. It is only moderately scarce in MS62 but it becomes rare in MS63 and I have never seen one that graded higher than this. The best I am aware of are a small group of nice PCGS MS63 coins, the last of which to sell was Heritage 4/09: 2763 (at $17,250). As with all of the early S Mint Type Three issues, this date is characterized by good luster and color but heavy surface marks.

1882-S: Beginning with this issue, the Type Threes from San Francisco become more available in the lower Uncirculated grades. The 1882-S is very common through MS62 and slightly scarce in MS63. But it is very rare in properly graded MS64 and I am not aware of any Gems. The best I know of is ex Heritage 7/06: 1714; a PCGS MS63 that brought $23,000.

The 1883-S is very common through MS63 but it becomes very rare in MS64 and it may not exist in Gem. This date is seen with good luster and color but is almost always very heavily abraded. There is a small group of properly graded MS64’s known and the last of these to sell was Heritage 1/10: 2261, graded by NGC, which realized $16,100. (more…)

The Story of the Two Greatest Gold Shipments In The History of the United States Mints

by Dr. Thomas F. Fitzgerald from the California Numismatist

Twice within a span of almost twenty-five years, all of the gold from the vaults of the 2nd San Francisco Mint, sometimes called the “Granite Lady,” was sent to the United States Mint in Denver, Colorado. Yet the story of these two operations could not have been more different. The first transfer was accomplished with so much secrecy that even the newspapers knew nothing of what was going on. But the second transfer was so well publicized that it included parades and search-lights calling attention to the shipments. This is the story of these two great shipments of gold.

The Very Secret Gold Transfer of 1908

In May 1897 newspaper editor and publisher Frank A. Leach accepted a political appointment by President McKinley to become the superintendent of the San Francisco Mint. He had wanted to divest himself of the newspaper business and this seemed like an ideal new career. Leach assumed his duties on August 1, 1897.

The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fires

It was a typical dawn in the Bay Area. Without warning a shaking of the earth occurred. It was 5:12 a.m. Wednesday, April 18, 1906! The “Great San Francisco Earthquake,” as it became known, was followed within seconds by a violent shaking that ruptured numerous gas lines resulting in dozens of fires. At the same time it was discovered the city’s water mains had been damaged. San Francisco, surrounded on three sides by water, could not battle the flames with water.

Just two years after the famous 1906 earthquake left the San Francisco mint’s surroundings in shambles, concerns about the mint’s storage capacity and security prompted the move of 331 million dollars worth of bullion to the mint in Denver.

Frank Leach made his way from his home in Oakland to the mint and, together with 50 mint employees and a squad of 10 soldiers, prepared to fight the inferno and save the mint. However, at the beginning of the struggle, the outcome was very much in doubt. The battle lasted for hours but shortly before 5:00 p.m. the fires were out and the building was saved. The men were able to leave the mint, return to their homes and reunite with their families.

More importantly for our story, the mint’s basement vaults that contained millions of dollars of gold and silver coins were saved. (more…)

San Francisco Double Eagles Gold Coins: A Date by Date Analysis Part Two

By Doug Winter –

The second part of this study on San Francisco double eagles deals with the Type Two issues struck from 1866 to 1876. [EDITOR: Click Here To Read Part One]

There are no absolute rarities in this series as with the Type One issues but there are a number condition rarities as well as affordable dates that are easy to locate in Extremely Fine and About Uncirculated grades.

Let’s take a look at each date and focus on the higher grade coins as these tend to be the most interesting Type Two double eagles from this mint.

1866-S With Motto:

After a small number of No Motto double eagles were struck in San Francisco in 1866, the change was made to the new With Motto design. The 1866-S With Motto is desirable as a first year of issue date but it is not really rare in terms of overall rarity. It tends to be found in lower grades (EF40 to AU50) and is nearly always seen with heavily abraded surfaces and poor eye appeal. It is scarce in properly graded AU55 to AU58 and rare in Uncirculated with an estimated two to three dozen known. It is extremely rare in MS62 above and none have been graded better than this by PCGS or NGC. The population figures in MS61 seem to be very inflated at both services and a few of the coins that I have seen in MS61 holders are marginal at best for the grade. The current auction record is $39,100 set by Bowers and Merena 7/06: 1667, graded MS62 by PCGS.


The 1867-S is a bit more available than the 1866-S With Motto in terms of overall rarity. In Uncirculated it is actually more rare with an estimated 15 or so known. The finest is a single MS63 at NGC; another five or six are known in MS62. This date is typically seen with a flat strike, very “ticky” surfaces and poor luster. Examples with good eye appeal are quite hard to locate and are worth a good premium over typical coins. Properly graded AU55 to AU58 pieces are very scarce and any example that grades above MS61 is extremely rare. The current auction record is $22,425 set all the way back in 2002 by Superior during the ANA auction; this was for a coin graded MS62 that is still the best that I can recall having seen.


The 1868-S is the most common Type Two double eagle from San Francisco struck during the 1860’s. It is plentiful in grades below AU55 but it is scarce in properly graded AU58 and rare in Uncirculated. I think there are around three dozen known in Uncirculated with most in the MS60 to MS61. Above MS61, the 1868-S is extremely rare. The highest graded is a single MS64 at NGC; the services have combined to grade four in MS62 with just one of these at PCGS. This date comes better struck than the 1866-S and 1867-S and has better luster as well. Like all San Francisco double eagles of this type, it is plagued by excessive surface marks. The natural coloration is often a pleasing rose-gold; others are found with orange-gold or greenish-gold hues. The current auction record was set by Heritage 2006 ANA: 5644, an NGC MS62 that sold for $32,200.

San Francisco Double Eagles: A Date by Date Analysis Part One

By Doug Winter –

It has been a long time since I’ve written anything about the San Francisco double eagles. As these coins have become increasingly popular over the course of time (they are actually the most popular gold coins from this mint by a considerable margin) I think this would be an excellent time to begin a series of articles. It is only natural to divide these coins into three groups and this would be as follows:

*Type One, 1854-1866
*Type Two, 1866-1876
*Type Three, 1877-1907

This first article is going to deal with the very popular Type One issues that were produced, as stated above, from 1854 through 1866.


After years of neglect, this historically significant date has finally come into its own. The survival pattern of the 1854-S is different than for any other SF double eagle. Examples are likely to be found either very well worn (in VF35 to EF45 grades) or in Uncirculated (MS61 to MS63). This is because of the fact that this issue saw considerable circulation in the booming local Gold Rush economy and that a hoard of 100 or so Uncirculated pieces with seawater surfaces exists. The 1854-S is extremely rare in high grades with natural surfaces. I have only seen two in Uncirculated not from the shipwreck and just a handful of non-seawater AU pieces. A new price record was set for the date by Heritage 10/08: 3013, graded MS65 by PCGS, which brought a remarkable $115,000. Despite this, published pricing information for the 1854-S is way too low and a solid AU55 or AU58 with natural surfaces is worth well over current levels.


For many collectors, the 1855-S is the earliest date SF double eagle that is added to their collection. This issue remains reasonably available in the lower to medium About Uncirculated grades but it is scarce in Uncirculated and much undervalued in my opinion. I believe that there are as many as 150-200 known in Uncirculated with many of these either in the lower range of this grade or sourced from the S.S. Central America or S.S. Republic shipwrecks. As with the other double eagles from this date, the 1855-S is characterized by very heavily abraded surfaces and choice, original pieces are worth a premium. At less than $3,000 for a pleasing, high end AU example, I think that the 1855-S remains an outstanding value in the Type One market.

The Second US Mint at San Francisco: Part Three

This is the third article in the series.

Granite Lady Closes and Reopens

San Francisco Mint 1937Its replacement, the third United States Mint at San Francisco, began striking coins in 1937. This period was comparatively brief however. Following World War II, the mints at Philadelphia and Denver were greatly improved. The plan was to have all of the nation’s coinage produced at these two facilities. As a result, in March 1955, after the production of the 1955 Lincoln cents, all coinage production at the third San Francisco Mint ceased and the facility became an assay offi ce and a supplier of plainchants for the Denver Mint.

The “Granite Lady,” after its closure in 1937 and through the years of the Second World War and the 1950s, served as a storage facility and offi ce space for a number of governmental agencies. It was apparent that the future of this historic building would become a concern of the government. Many facilities, following their wartime uses, were being declared as “surplus.” In its July 1959 publication, CSNA’s “Calcoin News” reported that a February 18, 1958 meeting was held to discuss the future of the mint building. At this meeting some people believed the site should be developed for commercial interests while other argued for a museum. Still, no action was taken.

By 1968 it was decided that the Federal Government no longer needed this building and the decision regarding its future commenced. At the end of February, the General Services Administration (GSA) sent notices to other federal agencies announcing the agency would remove its 150 employees now occupying the building within the next 90 days. The “Granite Lady,” fi rst opened in 1874, now was vacant and deserted. Offi cials advised that unless some local, state or federal agency made a bid for the building, the property would be sold at public auction.

Will The “Granite Lady” Become A State College?

The San Francisco Chronicle reported in its June 27, 1969 edition that the 2nd San Francisco mint building was to be given to the San Francisco State College system for a downtown campus. To facilitate this plan, the property was transferred to the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. The transfer was made offi cial on June 19, 1969. However, the State College wanted the site not the building and announced plans to demolish the old Mint building. (more…)

The Second US Mint at San Francisco: Part Two

This is the second article in the series.

Frank Aleamon Leach was born in Auburn, New York on August 19, 1846. In 1852, when he was not quite five years old, the family arrived in San Francisco. As he became a teenager, Frank tried his hand by working in machine shops but found this work unsatisfactory. In 1863, at the age of 17, he learned about the publication of a newspaper that was about to be started. Frank was offered a job to assist the printer and thus began his newspaper career. Frank Leach always considered himself a “newspaper man” and published his life story under the title of: “Recollections of a Newspaper Man.”

The Mint in San Franciso 1927It is important to this story to remember that in the days prior to the mass electronic media such as radios, televisions, internet-websites, portable telephones, etc., the newspaper provided the citizens with the reports of the political, business and other events of the day. As a result, the editors of these newspapers were very influential in shaping public opinion. They were as influential in elections and the shaping of governmental policies as any modern political action networks.

Frank Leach had been interested in political matters for a number of years. In fact, in 1880, he attended the Republican Convention in Chicago as an “alternate” delegate. He was appointed to the 1891 Assay Commission. In May 1897, following the inauguration of President McKinley, Frank Leach was notified he was the choice for the position of Superintendent of the United States Mint at San Francisco. He had wanted to divest himself of the newspaper business and this opportunity seemed to offer a new career. Leach assumed his duties on August 1, 1897.

Frank Leach served as head of the San Francisco Mint from 1897 through 1907 and again from 1912- 1913. Perhaps as a result of his work in serving both the mint and the city of San Francisco following the horrendous earthquake of 1906, he was appointed Director of the Mint and moved to Washington D.C. where he served from September 1907 to July 1, 1909. Frank Leach must be considered one of the most important leaders to have served as both a branch mint and as mint director.

The San Francisco Mint under Frank Leach produced the greatest volume of gold coinage in mint history. In addition, during this time the San Francisco Mint struck the Philippine coinage, introduced new and radical changes in the designs of the gold coins and adopted a new electrolytic method of refining the metals. His brief two-year service as Mint Director in Washington included the changes of the designs of our gold coinage, as a result of the efforts of President Theodore Roosevelt and Augustus Saint Gaudens. In addition, Frank Leach was instrumental in the historic design for the Lincoln cent, created by Victor D. Brenner, featuring the image of the assassinated President on the obverse in place of the Indian.

It was, however, the enormous San Francisco earthquake, that has become the legacy of Frank A. Leach!

The Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906

1906 Earthquake SFIt was a typical dawn in the Bay Area. All of a sudden a shaking of the earth occurred. It was 5:12 a.m. in San Francisco on Wednesday, April 18, 1906! Although only a foreshock, it had sufficent force to be felt through out the entire Bay Area. The “Great San Francisco Earthquake,” as it became known, followed within 20 to 25 seconds. The epicenter was just off the coast, near the city. The violent shaking, which seemed to last an eternity, actually continued for 45 to 60 seconds.

Although not immediately known, the violent shaking ruptured numerous gas lines that resulted in dozens of fi res that quickly merged into a single blazing inferno. But the damage wasn’t limited to the gas lines. Almost at the same time, it was discovered that the city’s water mains had also been damaged. San Francisco, surrounded on three sides by water, could not battle the flames with water.

In a letter dated April 23, 1906, E.H. Adams wrote: “The city is a mass of ruins from the Ferry Building or water front west to Van Ness Ave. and across town from north to south. Within the above radius no business house is left standing.” When the destruction of both human lives and property was totaled, the destruction of the earthquake and subsequent fi res was horrific. In 1906 the population of San Francisco was about 400,000. After extensive research in the late 1900s, it is estimated that 3,000 deaths resulted either directly or indirectly by the catastrophe. The property damage in the burned area of approximately 4.7 square miles was totaled as follows:

• 24,671 wooden buildings destroyed.
• 3,168 brick buildings destroyed. (more…)

The Second US Mint at San Francisco: Part One

This is the first article in the series.

The “New Mint” – The “Granite Lady.”

The early history of Alta California included the establishment of a series of Missions by the Franciscan Monks, accompanied by Spanish soldiers from Mexico and, from the north, the fur trappers, including those from Russia. The population, at fi rst, was sparse. On September 16, 1848, there were only about 15,000 people in Alta California. However, this changed rapidly with the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill near Coloma by John Marshall on January 24, 1848. Soon, the “gold rush” began, led by the miners known as the “49ers.” Within two years, California was admitted to the Union as the 31st state in 1850.Workers inside the SF Mint

A desperate need for financial institutions soon followed. Some twenty private mints of various sizes and efficiency were established. On September 16, 1848, a newspaper, “The Californian” printed a resolution reciting this great need and asking for action.

The “action” was soon forthcoming. President Fillmore, in his first Message to Congress, December 2, 1850, recommended that a U.S. branch mint be established in California to meet the need there. The California State Legislature, meeting in Sacramento on April 9, 1852, approved a resolution asking that a mint be established in San Francisco. Congress authorized a U.S. branch mint in California and passed the Act of July 3, 1852 noting the facility would be located in San Francisco.

The minting of coins soon got underway. The new mint was located in a small, sixty square foot building located on Commercial St. However, it soon became apparent the facility was inadequate, even with modifications. The mint’s director remarked: “It is almost impossible to conceive how so much work can be well done, and so much business transacted safely in so small a space.”

The problem grew worse. With the discovery of the vast amount of silver from Nevada’s Comstock Lode, the huge influx of silver sealed the fate of the small facility on Commercial St. The plans to either find a new building or look for a new site and construct a facility commenced. On December 6, 1866 the “Daily Alta California” reported a recommendation to the Secretary of the Treasury by a person named Miller that “the Vara lot located at the corner of Mission and Fifth Sts., owned by Eugene Kelly, be purchased to house the new building.”

In his annual report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1866, James Pollock, Director of the Mint, wrote: “I cannot too earnestly urge upon the Government the importance of erecting a new Mint building at San Francisco. The present building is not only wholly unfitted for the large and increasing business of the Branch Mint, but unsafe, and unworthy of the great mineral wealth of the Pacifi c States.”

A special telegraphic message to the “Daily Alta California” on Feb. 5, 1867, reported the purchase of this lot on Feb. 4th for $100,000 in coin. The plans were for a building 220 feet long by 166 feet wide, to cost $600,000. (more…)

A Western Assayer of the Mark Twain Period – The Wiegand Silver Ingots

by Fred N. Holabird with permission from Monaco Rare Coins


Conrad Wiegand was a boisterous man who was born in Philadelphia, worked for the US Mint, and came to the California Gold Rush in the early 1850’s. He went to work for the US Branch Mint in San Francisco at or near its inception in 1854.

Wiegand was small in stature, but big in ideas, and even stronger still in his opinions. He was a devoutly religious person who saw such injustice in the world that he undertook the publishing of his own newspaper—two of them, in fact. His other passion was the metals question, particularly his political stance generally held by most miners that money should be in the form of circulating hard specie—gold and silver coinage and ingots. Wiegand’s outspoken nature repeatedly got him into trouble, especially during his life on the Comstock. He was severely physically assaulted and beaten twice, which endeared him to the likes of Sam Clemens. As he advanced in age, his mental troubles worsened. Ultimately, his life ended in a hangman’s noose at the age of fifty in Virginia City.

A number of his precious metal ingots exist today as testimony of his work as a mainstream western assayer. These include nearly every phase of gold, silver and copper bullion in which Wiegand worked, as well as examples of items used to promote monetary specie.


Conrad Wiegand shared with friends in Virginia City that he was born in Philadelphia in March, 1830. His father was John Wiegand, a one-time banker and later surgical instrument manufacturer. His brothers included a pharmacist (Thomas) and an inventor (George). The family lived in Philadelphia. Conrad, however, soon disappeared from the written historical record of Philadelphia and all American census data.

In an interview later in life, Wiegand said that he “entered the assay department of the Philadelphia Mint on $1 a day for wages.” Wiegand apparently trained for several years at the Philadelphia Mint, and mention was made that he worked in New York as well, probably for a private assaying firm.

Wiegand Appointed Assayer, Branch Mint, San Francisco, 1854

In 1854 he was appointed by President Pierce to the Branch Mint at San Francisco as Assayer. By his own admission, he returned to the east coast shortly after to run the New York New Boys Club, then left that job to study for the ministry. Unsuccessful with the Boys Club, he worked for a stint at the Brooklyn Naval Yard. President Abraham Lincoln subsequently appointed him as assayer to the Branch Mint in San Francisco once again. Working again in San Francisco, he soon published an opinionated pamphlet promoting the use of gold and silver as circulating specie.

As one of the original presidential appointees of President Pierce for the US Branch Mint at San Francisco when it opened in 1854, Wiegand held special status. Information on this early period is scant. By 1855 he held the position with the Branch Mint as Assayer, though this may be near the time that he returned to New York for a short while. While working there, his naturally boisterous and vociferous nature came to the forefront almost immediately, particularly when the Vigilance Committee was formed and action later taken. Wiegand gave a public speech, reported October 12, 1856 on the moral aspects of the Casey matter. He also published at least one article under the pseudonym William Carroll. (more…)

Modern Coins – No-S Proof Coin Set to be offered by Heritage at CSNS

The period 1965 to 1967 was an interesting time in US numismatic history. The price of silver had risen to the point where it made no sense to make higher denomination coins out of silver. In addition, there was a widely reported coin shortage, despite record production levels.

As the mint scrambled to adjust, a number of emergency measures were taken. Production of 1964-dated coinage continued well into 1965 until the new clad planchets were ready. Then, to make sure that there was enough of the new coinage to go around, the mint decided both to cease production of proof coinage and to do away with mintmarks. The only concession of any kind made to coin collectors were the Special Mint Sets of 1965-67, not true proof coins, but high quality circulation strike coins similar in some ways to the satin finish coins in mint sets today.

In 1968, the mint resumed the use of mintmarks and the production of proof coinage, but with a new twist. Proof coins, like the prior Special Mint Set coins, were now made in San Francisco, and the S mintmark reappeared after a 12 year hiatus. Initially, the San Francisco Mint also manufactured some circulation strike cents and nickels, but their dimes, quarters, and halves were strictly proofs. The mint would eventually also make Susan B. Anthony dollars for circulation, as well as silver-clad Ike dollars and bicentennial coinage for collectors.

During the first year of S-mint proof set production, an unexpected hitch occurred. In a few sets full of S-mint coins, the dimes had no trace of a mintmark! This came about because at that time all coinage dies were prepared with no mintmark, which would be added only upon arrival at the branch mint. On one die, that didn’t happen, and an instant rarity was made.

Walter Breen opined that about six examples of the 1968 no S dime were known. If that is true, then Heritage has sold each of these coins an average of at least three times apiece. Nevertheless, the 1968 no S dime is clearly an extremely rare coin, likely R.6 or low R.7, surpassed in rarity among 20th century dimes by only one coin.

Heritage’s upcoming 2010 April-May Milwaukee, WI CSNS US Coin Auction includes a rather unique proof set: one each of the five collectible missing mintmark proof coins. Along with the 1968 no S dime, the set includes the 1970 no S dime, the 1971 no S nickel, the 1983 no S dime, and the 1990 no S cent. While none of these coins is as rare as the 1968 S-less dime, each is highly desirable, and a key to its respective proof series. All of the coins in the set grade Proof-68 or 69, and show the eye appeal expected of latter-day US Mint products.

Incidentally, the sole 20th century dime that is rarer than the 1968 no S proof dime is also an S-less proof. A mere two examples are known of the 1975 no S dime, and neither Heritage nor the major grading services has ever handled one!