When the congressional legislation to issue the 2021 Morgan and Peace silver dollars to mark the centennial of the release of the 1921 Morgan silver dollars and the 1921 Peace silver dollars (the respective last and first coins of those series) was being developed, provisions were included that called for issuing coins at the various mints where those coins were originally issued.
Thus, there are 2021 Morgan and Peace dollars struck at the Philadelphia Mint and new Morgan dollars that were made at the Denver and San Francisco Mints, just as they were back then.
But when it came to the two other mints that produced these iconic silver dollars – those located in Carson City, Nevada and New Orleans, Louisiana that sported respectively “CC” and “O” mint marks – the bill's proponents and allies faced a dilemma.
Both of those mints have long been shuttered and are now museums. But if coin minting presses could somehow be transported to those locations, perhaps coins could be struck there bearing the original mint marks? Unfortunately, the economics of doing that were not feasible as it would have been very expensive to transport the kind of high-speed presses need to strike hundreds of thousands of coins, so another way had to be found to honor those other two mints that were part of silver dollar history.
The proposed solution was to create coins with “CC” and “O” privy marks that would be similar to mint marks but would appear in raised ovals with incuse lettering to make it clear they are not mint marks. This approach is one that some collectors were not happy with, but it was very important to some of the bill’s key supporters in Congress.
And despite misgivings about privy marks from some collectors, when those coins were offered in the spring, they sold out very quickly. And they are also the ones whose prices have risen the most of the 6-coin set of 2021 silver dollars.
The famous California Gold Rush led eventually to the establishment of a new branch of the U.S. Mint in San Francisco, but because most of the gold and silver (a byproduct of gold) coins and bars struck there went overseas, the need arose for another new branch mint not far from California in Nevada, the location of many silver mines.
This led to the creation of the Carson City Mint with Congress authorizing it in 1863, and the cornerstone being laid in 1866. But then construction problems were encountered, and it was not until 1870 that the first coins – Liberty Seated silver dollars – were struck there.
But apart from Trade dollars, the Carson City mint did not produce very many coins during the early years of its operation. It was only after passage of the Bland-Allison Act of 1878 that led to production of the Morgan dollar that significant numbers of coins were made there, but the mint was repeatedly beset by various problems such as budget cuts from Congress. The mint was eventually closed in 1893 but was reopened in 1899. However, its function as limited to refining silver and gold into ingots, and it became a federal assay office.
As a result of all the problems the Carson City mint encountered, most of the coins minted there, including the Morgan silver dollars struck there so popular with today’s collectors, were minted in small numbers, which is why CC coins are also among the rarest U.S. Mint issues in its history.
The mint continued as an assay office until 1933 when it failed to be funded by Congress and closed, and in 1941 the old mint there became a museum, which it remains to this day.
By 1800 gold was discovered in Georgia and North Carolina, creating the need for branch mints closer to the source of the precious metals used to create coins. In addition, the port of New Orleans, Louisiana was at the time second only to New York as a source of foreign imports, including silver and gold from the mines of South America.
This led in 1835 to a single law that created the mints of Charlotte, Dahlonega and New Orleans with the third one striking coins from 1838 all the way to 1909 when it became a federal assay office. Today it houses the Louisiana State Museum.
The New Orleans mint also encountered problems that led to disruptions of its minting operations because the marshlands and swampy areas contributed to outbreaks of malaria and yellow fever. There was also corruption and cronyism among political appointees who ran the mint.
During the Civil War Louisiana seceded from the union, and the mint in New Orleans was seized by state militia in 1861, and it was later turned over to the Confederate States of America. During this period only gold double eagles and silver half dollars were made there.
In 1862 Union forces briefly occupied the mint, and then it remained vacant until the war ended in 1865. In 1867 the Mint Director at the time recommended it only be used to distribute coins struck at other mints partly because the hoarding of silver and gold coins during the war reduced the need for new coins and because of damage to the machinery during the war. In 1876 it opened as an assay office.
But once again the Morgan silver dollar that debuted in 1878 resulted in a reopening and refurbishing of the mint, and millions of silver dollars would be struck and stored there from 1879 through 1904. Other coins were also made there after the mint reopened. Then the opening of the new Denver mint and expansion of the Philadelphia mint in 1906 reduced the need for a southern mint. Smaller numbers of coins were made in New Orleans until 1909 when it again became an assay office.
After extensive restoration and rebuilding the facility reopened in 1981 as the Louisiana State Museum.
The 2021 CC and O privy mark silver dollars are a great way to pay tribute to these two famous branch mints.