This weeks blog topic is the result of one written by Slybluenote, Charlie as those who follow know him. The United States Mint at West Point, New York. Enjoy!
Situated about a mile due west of both the Academy and town which bear the same name, a little known mint facility has played a vital role to the United States Treasury going beyond coinage alone. With the release of the West Point quarters in 2019 this once overlooked mint has been thrust into the public spotlight. While true, many in the collector community have been aware of it's existence largely due to the American Silver Eagle program, the general public not withstanding, the origin and history prior to 1996 are cloudy at best to most. Erected on a four acre plot of former West Point Military Academy property allocated through the Defense Department in 1937, yet not associated with either, officially opened in 1938 as The West Point Bullion Depository. Designed by architect, Louis A. Simon, this simple 170 foot by 256 foot nondescript structure of reinforced concrete served as the primary storage facility of bullion, largely silver. So much so that in a short time it became known as the Fort Knox of Silver, a nickname which still remains to this day. Unchanged in appearance until a second story was added in 2005 (see the color facade image), this little mint has a story equal to, if not greater than, that of the several other branch mints.
As war raged across Europe and the Pacific in the late nineteen-thirties and forties, several of the European nations began exporting bullion to the United States for fear that Germany would surly seize such vast treasure. While the bulk of these shipments were stored at Fort Knox in Kentucky, a portion had been sent to the depository at West Point. As a result, these same nations needing the bullion to keep their economies fluent and functional, the West Point mint played a vital role in just that. Under the Congressional Lend-lease Program, an astonishing 410 million troy ounces of silver with a value of nearly 300 million dollars had been loaned to Allied nations in both theaters of war. While the primary use was for coinage or currency stabilization, others used it in the industrial sector. Even our own Atomic Energy Commission received loans during that time period. In the coming years this New York depository would house the largest concentration of silver, as well as other precious metals, in the United States. In fact, gold had reached a record high of almost twenty-billion dollars by the mid nineteen-eighties. Since opening, and following World War II, the West Point Depository was the key supplier of silver sent to the various mints. While official records are sketchy as to when coinage presses arrived at the facility, the first strikings occurring in 1974 suggest around that time. These were Lincoln Cents without a mint mark to aide the Philadelphia mint during a supply shortage. Quarter dollars would follow in 1977. The first coin struck bearing a "W" mint mark came in September of 1983 with the Los Angeles Olympics ten-dollar gold commemorative bearing the year 1984. Another first credited to this yet to become mint, the use of gold in coinage available for sale to the public since 1933. As the newly restore commemorative programs beginning in 1982 grew, President Ronald Reagan saw fit to sign into law the American Silver Eagle Bullion Program. An award given the West Point Bullion Depository in late 1985, striking the very first such the following year. Two years would pass, striking coin as a depository, until March 31, 1988 (coincidentally my birthday- turning 21 to none the less!) when it was officially reclassified as a United States Mint.
Aside from the a fore mentioned, there are many firsts originating from the newest mint under the Treasury Department. In 1996, a special uncirculated coin set with an included "W" Roosevelt dime. 1997 also saw the first ever platinum American Eagle, struck at West Point. In 2000, the first bi-metallic coin, the Library of Congress ten-dollar commemorative. In 2014, a reverse proof, the Kennedy half dollar. In, the first reverse proof dollar included with the Native American Coin and Currency Set. In 2019 the first "W" Lincoln Cent. In 2020 the first "W" Jefferson nickel. Oh, and the 2019 quarters bearing a West Point mint mark. With such a list of accomplishments as those, how could West Point not rival the bigger names?