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September 23, 1986

 

The Gold Bullion Act of 1985 authorized the minting a gold bullion coin available for public purchase. On September 23, 1986, Numismatic News was there for the first strike.

First gold bullion coin struck

By Burnett Anderson

Washington Bureau

Monetary history was made in a colorful ceremony Sept. 8 at the West Point Bullion Depository as James A. Baker III, treasury secretary, struck the first non-commemorative U.S. gold coin in 53 years.

It was a festive occasion. Flags fluttered in sparkling sunshine and a military band played upbeat music as guests gathered from across the continent.

The setting added to the feeling of an historic moment: The depository is situated on the grounds of the venerable U.S. Military Academy overlooking the Hudson River north of New York City, scene of battles more than 200 years ago during the Revolutionary War.

“If California can have a gold strike, so can West Point,” the secretary said said as he prepared to press the two buttons to activate the press. Both hands are required as a safety measure.

In his brief remarks, Baker traced the historic fascination with gold back to classical times, saying the legend of the Golden Fleece may have grown out of using wool in an ancient process to capture gold, as woolen blankets were sometimes used in the 19th century.

Turning to the press, he activated a button at the left, which lowered a protective screen in front of the mechanism, then one at the right for two quick strikes of the planchet.

There was prolonged applause as he held up the gleaming coin, the Saint-Gaudens-designed figure of Liberty clearly visible from several feet away.