Charlotte Coins: A Brief History

By Davis Cary
8th Grade, Community House Middle School, Charlotte, NC
Mr. Schulman’s Class

 

The NC Gold Rush

The history of the Charlotte Mint started in 1799, when a North Carolinian, Conrad Reed, found a shiny, 17 pound rock in a creek near his home. This “shiny rock” happened to be solid gold. For years, he and his family used it as an interesting looking doorstop. A jeweler later looked at it and bought it from the Reed’s, knowing it was gold.

 

The 17 lb gold found by Conrad Reed.

 

This started the first gold rush in American history, before the more famous one in California. Miners from near and far came to claim the gold of NC. The rush attracted not only miners, but also brought many engineers, metallurgists, and investors. This helped the city of Charlotte to expand and grow. The raw gold, after it was mined, was usually sold to a local bank or jeweler who would charge a 6 to 10 percent fee for the gold they would buy. Since the nearest mint was in Philadelphia, which was a long and treacherous journey back then, the raw gold was either shipped away to London, or sold to local banks. This prompted the need for a mint.

 

 

The Bechtler Family Mint

A Bechtler Minted Gold Coin

 

To solve the problem of converting raw gold,  the Bechtler family started to mint coins for locals. Minting coins is the process of stamping metal. While the local mint produced lots of coins, it didn’t stop the oversea trade. Oversea trade was a problem because other countries would put a fee on the imported gold, and because of this, traders and the US economy would lose money. Andrew Jackson, the president at that time, found it ridiculous that people were shipping United States gold to foreign countries while also losing money. This, along with the heavy production of Bechtler minted coins in 1835 prompted President Jackson to urge Congress to approve a law that would open a mint in Charlotte.

 

 

 

 

 

The Charlotte Mint

      

A Quarter Eagle Gold Coin, made in the Charlotte Mint.

 

      The official United States Mint in Charlotte was opened and ready for minting in 1837. The mint created jobs and helped the economy. The new money being spread around boosted Charlotte’s economy and encouraged others to live in Charlotte, which led to even more growth.

The Charlotte mint produced over 1.2 million gold coins, estimated at a worth of around $5.05 million. The coins minted included $1 gold dollars, $2.50 gold quarter eagles, and $5 gold half eagles.

These coins bore the letter C on them to mark they were from Charlotte. The coins are extremely rare today, and are worth much more money than they originally were. This is because many were lost or destroyed.

 

 

The Fire

A sketch of the Charlotte Mint Building

 

In 1844, the Mint burned down for unknown reasons, but the continuous need for gold coins led to the rebuilding of the Charlotte mint, which reopened in 1846. There are some extremely rare 1844 coins that were produced before the fire. Gold production wasn’t the same after the fire since many of the North Carolinian miners had heard about a bigger and better gold rush in San Francisco, and they searched for riches there instead. The opening of the San Francisco mint also decreased the need for the Charlotte mint to continue producing coins. This hurt the economy because less people were paying in newly minted coins, decreasing the need for them.

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The original San Francisco Mint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under Confederate Control

 

A confederate gold coin.

As the Civil War was approaching, NC seceded from the Union. Because of the secession, the Confederates gained control of the former United States Mint. During the civil war, all mints in seceded states were controlled and used by the Confederacy. The Confederacy did mint Confederate specific coins for a short time until they ran out of resources. When the minting was stopped, the doors were closed. The building would never be used for minting again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repurposed

 

The current Mint Museum. It has been added onto and renovated, but the original building still remains.

 

The Charlotte Mint building, no longer used to produce coins, has had many uses.  From the time the doors were closed, to 1913, the building was used to test the quality and ingredients of metals. Later, in World War 1, the building was used as a Red Cross station. It was also served as the meeting place for the Charlotte Women’s Club. The building was almost demolished in 1931 because a post office needed to expand. To preserve Charlotte’s history, a citizens group purchased the building and moved it to Randolph road, where it currently stands. The building was added on to and converted into an art museum, now called the Mint Museum. The museum is not only a showcase of beautiful art from around the world, it is a reminder of the NC gold rush and the mint that impacted the economy and city greatly.

 

 

Works Cited

Coins, Gibraltar. “The Story of the Charlotte Mint.” CoinWeek, 25 Jan. 2016,
coinweek.com/education/the-story-of-the-charlotte-nc-mint/.

Lester, Carl. “Charlotte Mint.” Southern Gold Society,
www.southerngoldsociety.org/charlotte-mint/.

“Mint Museum Randolph.” The Mint Museum | Visit Mint Museum Randolph,
www.mintmuseum.org/visit/mint-museum-randolph/.

“Charlotte US Coin Mint.” USA Coin Book,
www.usacoinbook.com/encyclopedia/coin-mints/charlotte/.