Denver Gold and Silver Exchange
5475 Leetsdale Dr Suite 210
Denver, Colorado 80246
The San Francisco Mint is a branch of the United States Mint, and
was opened in 1854 to serve the gold mines of the California Gold
Rush. It quickly outgrew its first building and moved into a new one
in 1874. This building, the Old United States Mint also known
affectionately as The Granite Lady, is one of the few that survived
the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake. It served until 1937, when
the present facility was opened.
Within the first year of its operation, the San Francisco mint
turned $4 million in gold bullion into coins. The second building,
completed in 1874, was designed by Alfred B. Mullett in a
conservative Greek Revival style with a sober Doric order. The
building had a central pedimented portico flanked by projecting
wings in an E-shape; it was built round a completely enclosed
central courtyard that contained a well—the features that saved it
during the fire of 1906, when the heat melted the plate glass
windows and exploded sandstone and granite blocks with which it was
faced. The building sat on a concrete and granite foundation,
designed to thwart tunneling into its vaults, which at the time of
the 1906 fire held $300 million, fully a third of the United States'
gold reserves. Heroic efforts by Superintendent of the Mint, Frank
Leach, and his men preserved the building and the bullion that
backed the nation's currency. The mint resumed operation soon
thereafter, continuing until 1937.
In 1961 the Old Mint, as it had become known, was designated a
National Historic Landmark.
The given name of "The Granite Lady" is somewhat of a misnomer as
most of the building is made from sandstone. While the base/basement
of the building is made of granite, the entire external and upper
stories are made of sandstone. The Granite Lady was a marketing term
given in the 1970s that stuck.
The Old Mint was open to visitors until 1993. In 2003 the federal
government sold the structure to the City of San Francisco for one
dollar—an 1879 silver dollar struck at the mint— for use as the
Museum of the City of San Francisco. In the fall of 2005, ground was
broken for renovations that would turn the central court into a
glass-enclosed galleria. The Museum is scheduled to open in 2012,
but the Old Mint is used for special events, some open to the
public, prior to the Museum's official opening.
The new Mint was opened in 1937. Beginning in 1955, circulating
coinage from San Francisco was suspended for 13 years. In 1968, it
took over most proof coinage production from the Philadelphia Mint,
but continued striking a supplemental circulating coinage from 1968
through 1974. Since 1975, the San Francisco Mint has been used only
for proof coinage, with the exception of the Susan B. Anthony dollar
from 1979-81 and a portion of the mintage of cents in the early
1980s. The dollars bear a mintmark of an "S", but the cents are
otherwise indistinguishable from those minted at Philadelphia (which
bear no mintmarks, unlike those years' proof cents from San
Francisco and circulation cents from Denver). It is located at 155
Hermann Street, but does not allow visitors.