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Public kept out of West Point Mint


West Point Mint Facility

Can I tour the mint at West Point?

The West Point Mint is not open to the public due to the gold bullion there. Its high security means the address is not in the National Register listings of the National Park Service.

What do you see as the biggest problem facing coin collecting today?

The business end of the coin hobby is feeling the impact of collectors taking more interest in Presidential dollars, state quarters and other collectibles available from circulation, but have little commercial value. Dealers look to sell high-value coins, but these are complicated by certifying them, who certified them, and if they are then “stickered” by yet someone else to ensure the certification is correct. There is nothing wrong with the collector end of numismatics. It is the business end that is making it so complex many people shy away from that area.

Why were Bicentennial coins made in only three denominations, these being the quarter, half dollar and dollar?

There was a lot of disagreement in Congress regarding which denominations should be used to mark the Bicentennial. The Treasury opposed the entire idea of issuing Bicentennial coins at first, then suggested it would support changes to the dollar and half dollar. Mint Director Mary Brooks sent mixed signals, testifying before an advisory committee that she favored all circulating denominations to mark the Bicentennial, then telling a newspaper that changing all six denominations would be “a disaster.” Senate Bill 1141 calling for changes to the quarter, half dollar and dollar passed in 1973, settling the matter.

Did Mint Director Mary Brooks have her own ideas on what coins should be issued for the Bicentennial?

Brooks favored non-circulating legal tender commemorative coins, suggesting a half cent or a gold coin to be issued. This was closer to the Treasury opinion, which was that no commemorative coins should be issued at all. She eventually persuaded Treasury Secretary George Shultz to support the concept of Bicentennial coinage.

Was there a particular reason why a gold coin couldn’t have been issued for the Bicentennial?

Gold was illegal to own when the legislation was considered in 1973. Ownership of the precious metal was not legalized until the last day of 1974. The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives held what was described as a “fairly hot and heavy” conference meeting regarding finalizing what would constitute the Bicentennial coinage. There was a proposal attached to the Senate version of the bill that would have allowed individuals to once again own gold coin (banned in 1933), however the final compromise bill lacked this provision.

Is there a way to identify the West Point minted 1-cent coins of 1974 to 1986 from those minted at Philadelphia?

I am unaware of any way they can be identified, but if any reader is aware such a distinguishing mark exists please share it by contacting me. The first U.S. coin struck there with a definitive identification is the 1984-W $10 gold Los Angeles Olympiad commemorative.

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This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

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