The “O” mint in 1861 — Civil War Commemorative Gold Five-Dollar Coin

Today, the Civil War Commemorative Gold Five Dollar Coin remembers when the New Orleans Mint changed from a federal to a confederate mint 156 years ago.

The Banker’s Magazine of August 1885 and the American Journal of Numismatics of July 1896 provided insights into the operations of the New Orleans Mint during that era.

Banker’s Magazine:


New Orleans Mint. — The coinage act of 1873 made it the duty of the Director of the Mint to have the general supervision of all United States’ mints or assay offices.

The first Director acting under the law was the Hon. H. R. Linderman, and in his report on the subject he gives statistics of the coinage in the several mints, showing the total amounts and the denominations of money made at each place for each year of their existence.

The New Orleans Mint was opened for business in 1838.

Subsequently money of every denomination was made there.

The Director’s statement is brought down to January 31, 1861, up to which time there had been a total coinage of $40,148,740 in gold and 829,764,353 in silver, making a grand total at the New Orleans Mint from its beginning, 1838, to the 31st of January, 1861, in both silver and gold of $69,913,093.

The date at which the Director’s report closes was the date at which the mint fell into the hands of the Confederates, Louisiana having seceded from the Union by an ordinance adopted by the State Convention January 26, 1861, and on the 29th of the same month all the Federal offices in the State, including the mint, were directed, by ordinance adopted that day, to be transferred to the custody of the State of Louisiana.

On the 25th of March following they were ordered to be transferred to the care of the Confederate States.

Documents lately brought to light show that subsequent to the mint going into the hands of the Louisianians and the Confederates, and up to May 30 of the same year, there were coined $254,000 in gold double eagles and $1,101,216.50 in silver half dollars, thus making a total coinage of $1,356,136.50 while the mint was in the enemy’s hands.

What was done with this money does not appear from any available records, but the fact that the coinage as stated was made is shown on the books of the coiner at that time, and in order to make up the true amount of the actual coinage of the New Orleans Mint this sum must be taken into account.

There was no regular coinage of the precious metals into Confederate specie under Confederate auspices, although the New Orleans Mint remained in their control to April 26, 1862, when the city was taken by the Federal forces.


American Journal of Numismatics:


Coinage of the Confederate States with U. S. Dies.

There are a large number of coins struck by the State of Louisiana, and by the Confederate States authorities, from dies made by the United States Mint, which it has been considered by some should properly be regarded as Confederate issues, and not those of the United States.

In response to recent inquiries made of the Editors concerning these coins, we have made some investigations, and find it stated in the Report of the U. S. Mint Director for 1887 (p. 7), that


The workbooks of the mint at New Orleans show that a coinage was executed at that institution in 1861, between January 26 and May 31, by the State of Louisiana, after the mint was closed against the United States, amounting to $195,000 in double eagles; and a coinage by the Confederate States of $59,820 in double eagles: —a total gold coinage during the sequestration of the mint of $254,820.

In the second and third months of the same year there was also executed by the State of Louisiana at the United States mint in the city of New Orleans a silver coinage of $620,000 in half dollars; and by the Confederate States in the following months of April and May, $481,316.50: —a total silver coinage of half dollars by the State of Louisiana and the Confederate States of $1,101,316.50, from regular dies of the United States supplied late in 1860 for the following year.

For obvious reasons, neither of the coinage executed at the United States mint at New Orleans, while out of the control of the Government, has ever been taken up in statements of the coinage of the United States.

Thirty-two pairs of dies of the date of 1861, more or less complete, and of all denominations of United States coins, were found at the mint by the agent of this Bureau in January, 1885, and by him destroyed on the 15th of that month.

It is presumed that the larger part, if not the whole, of the gold coin struck, as above described, from United States coinage dies under other than legal auspices, was applied to purchases abroad, and that accordingly it has long since been melted down without ever having appeared in any form in domestic circulation.


It would seem to be a fair inference from these statements, that the entire coinage of double eagles and of half dollars, with the date 1861 and the New Orleans mint-mark, were actually Confederate and not United States issues, for, as appears from a letter written by Dr. Bonzano, Melter and Refiner at New Orleans during the period in question, printed on page 8 of the report cited, the branch mint with “its contents and all other property of the United States were ‘taken in trust’ by the Secession Convention in December, 1860; ” and it is clear, therefore, that nothing was done there by the lawful authority of the United States in 1861.

Of the 2,202,633 half dollars of 1861, with the o mint-mark, 962,633 pieces were Confederate and 1,240,000 State issues; while of the gold double eagle, 9,750 were State and 2,991 Confederate pieces.

Of course it would be an impossible task to attempt to assign any coin of that date and mint to its particular issue, whether “ State ” or “ Confederate.” L. H. L.


The Civil War Commemorative Gold Five-Dollar Coin shows with an image of the New Orleans Mint, circa 1861.

Civil War Commemorative Gold Five-Dollar Coin