As part of a past discussion of the possibility of a 2020 commemorative coin in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Carson City Mint (Read it here.), a "pop up" mint was briefly mentioned. I thought maybe folks would like to read a bit more about a "pop up" mint that actually happened!
Many collectors of modern US commemorative coins may already be aware of this event, but for those who aren't...
Coins of the modern US commemorative series are struck at US Mint facilities in Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco and West Point. For one day in June, 1989, however, Washington, DC also became a coin production site for the US Mint.
The 1989 Congress Bicentennial commemorative coin program was authorized by Public Law 100-673. It consisted of a copper-nickel clad half dollar, a silver dollar and a gold half eagle. The legislation specified that the Mint's West Point facility was to be used to strike the gold coins (proof and uncirculated), but was not as facility-specific for the dollar and half dollar coins. For these two coins, it stated that not more than one mint facility could be used to strike more than one quality (i.e., proof or uncirculated) of a given denomination (i.e., Denver and San Francisco, for example, could not both strike proof silver dollars). This resulted in uncirculated finish silver dollars being struck at Denver and proof versions at San Francisco. The same split was used for the CuNi clad half dollars.
As the coins were being struck to mark 200 years since the establishment of the House of Representatives and the Senate, some members of Congress decided it would be appropriate to strike some of the coins at the Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Senator George John Mitchell (D-ME) introduced a Joint Resolution in the Senate on May 10, 1989 that sought authorization for a "First Strike" ceremony at the Capitol for the coins. Senator Mitchell requested immediate consideration of the resolution; as there were no objections to the request, the resolution was read, considered and passed in short order.
On May 23, 1989, Representative Corrine Claiborne Boggs (D-LA) introduced the Senate Joint Resolution in the House of Representatives; Boggs was then serving as the chair of the Commission on the Bicentenary of the United States House of Representatives. Representative John Jacob Rhodes III (R-AZ) requested an explanation of the Resolution which Rep. Boggs was happy to provide. A key element of her comments was the statement "The coins were authorized last year by Public Law 100-378. By law these coins must be minted by the San Francisco, West Point, and Denver mints. In order to hold this special first strike ceremony here at the Capitol on June 14, there must be specific authorization given to the mint and that is what this resolution hopes to accomplish." (Note: Rep. Boggs misspoke re: Public Law 100-378 as being the authorizing legislation. That law was replaced by Public Law 100-673 due to an administrative issue in language of the original regarding amendments to the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Company that were attached to the coin bill - the unrelated language inadvertantly cancelled the coin's authorization one day after it was signed into law!)
The "First Strike" Joint Resolution did not face any objection in the House. As such, it was quickly approved and presented to President George Bush who signed the bill into law on June 9, 1989.
Let the final cermony preparations begin!
June 14, 1989 (i.e., Flag Day) was the date set for the First Strike ceremony, and it was set to be an "invitation only" event. This meant that the majority of collectors interested in attending such an historic event would be out of luck due to security concerns. The guest list was basically select members of the Treasury Department/US Mint, members of Congress and a short list of outside VIPs.
The Mint brought four presses from Philadelphia down to Washington and set them up, under a tent, on the plaza adjacent to the Capitol. Only two of the presses where expected to be used, one for the gold $5 and one for the silver $1; each had a backup. It turned out that the backup plan needed to be activated as the first press intended to strike the silver dollar coins malfunctioned immediately and strikes of the silver coin were made on the backup press. It took two strikes to create each of the gold $5.00 coins and three strikes for the larger silver dollar.
The first gold and silver coins struck were initiated by Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady. He was followed by US Treasurer Katherine Ortega and then Donna Pope, Director of the US Mint. They were followed by various members of Congress and invited VIPs.
Members of the House and Senate in attendance were given a chance to strike a coin. House members struck silver dollars and Senators struck gold half eagles. The reason for this split was due to the designs on the coins: the silver dollar features the House Mace on its reverse and the gold half eagle incorporates the eagle that is perched on a US Shield atop the canopy over the chair of the President of the Senate (i.e., the US Vice President) in the Old Senate Chamber. Not all members of Congress attended the ceremony, so the number of coins struck is somewhat less than the total serving in 1989. Based on the published number of attendees, I estimate that approximately 200 to 250 total "ceremony" coins were struck.
The coins struck at the ceremony were proof coins, and carried the mint mark of the facility that was tabbed to strike the full run of the coins: "W" (West Point) for the gold half eagle and "S" (San Francisco) for the silver dollar - there wasn't any "DC" or "C" for Capitol mint mark used. The ceremony coins are identical to the coins struck at the regular Mint facilities. So, there is no way to reliably tell them apart (unless the original ceremony paperwork is available and the coin's pedigree can be traced). Interesting note: Newspaper accounts of the ceremony reported that the event was the first time that US coins had been struck outside of an official US Mint. You might recall an earlier post of mine about the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition half dollars in which I discussed how the authorizing legislation for the coins gave the Mint the authority to strike the silver coins at the Exposition vs. at the San Francisco Branch Mint. The Mint didn't avail itself of the option at the time, but it was the first time Congress authorized US coinage to be struck outside of the Mint. If you missed the post, you can find it here: Revisiting the Panama-Pacific International Exposition Half Dollar .
So, one of the more historically-important commemorative coin programs of the modern series also has a modern-day historic event attached to it. An interesting side story for the coin!
Here are PCGS CoinFacts
images of the proof 1989 Congress Bicentennial gold and silver coins. I don't collect the proof versions of the modern commemorative coins, so I don't have any images of my own coins to share!1989-W Congress Bicentennial Gold $5.00 - Proof1989-W Congress Bicentennial Silver $1.00 - Proof
While I don't have a "First Strike" Congress Bicentennial coin in my collection, I do have one coin from the program that was produced in limited number - a rotated die silver dollar struck at the Denver Branch Mint - it is believed that less than 200 (some experts believe less than 100) of the error coins were produced.1989-D Congress Bicentenial Uncirculated Silver Dollar - Rotated Reverse
I posted about this error coin here: 1989 Rotated Congress Bicentennial Dollar
For other of my posts about commemorative coins and medals, check out: Read More: Commems Collection