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‘O’ Mint ready to reopen

Good news from the South is that on Oct. 19 the old New Orleans Mint will reopen its doors.

Good news from the South is that on Oct. 19 the old New Orleans Mint will reopen its doors.

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(Image courtesy Louisiana State Museum.)

It is now a Mint Museum and it suffered severely at the hands of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Approximately two-thirds of the roof?s copper cladding was blown off and the twisted metal tossed into nearby streets.

Water entered the building and damaged a number of jazz-related artifacts. Fortunately the coin and paper money collections and the Mint exhibit housed in the building were unaffected ? including Robert LeNeve?s 1861-O proof half dollar.

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Copper cladding was partially stripped from the New Orleans Mint roof by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. (Image courtesy Louisiana State Museum.)

Greg Lambousy, director of collections at the Louisiana State Museum, reported at the beginning of September that they were just in the process of getting the mint back from the contractors. Most of the structure has been renovated and a new and improved copper roof installed. Renovations included work on fencing, flagstones, paint, plaster, carpet and installation of a new ventilation system.

For those collectors passing through New Orleans, the restored Mint Museum is well worth a visit. The former exhibit on the history of the New Orleans Mint has been totally revamped and expanded. It also now includes a section on the archaeology of the Mint. The building served as both a U.S. and Confederate mint, but lack of bullion shut it down quickly under Confederate administration. Minting operations ceased once and for all in 1909 and in 1966 the landmark was transferred to the state. It opened to the public in 1981 as a state museum.

The October reopening coincides with the Mint hosting a major traveling exhibit on gold from the American Museum of Natural History. This exhibition is scheduled to run until mid-January 2008. A number of New Orleans Mint-struck coins feature prominently. Readers who want a preview could try Web site

The Mint will also have on display notable gold and silver coins from the collections of Rick Demers and Lynn Ourso.

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A jazz event was held on the grounds in April. (Image courtesy Louisiana State Museum.)

Paper money collectors are not forgotten. The entire collection is in the process of becoming available for research online.

Of course, those numismatists who visit New Orleans for the jazz will find that part of the museum up and running as well, despite water affecting some three percent of the New Orleans Jazz Collection. These items were removed immediately following the passing of Katrina and the works on paper freeze-dried by staff at the LSU Hill Memorial Library, the University of Louisiana Lafayette and State Archives Division of the Louisiana Secretary of State.