legendary Coins and Currency
Exhibition Collection Search Timeline Game Visit
Legendary FirstsLegendary BeautiesUnexpected LegendsGolden LegendsLegends of the Human Spirit
Enter the Online Exhibition (Flash Required)
Image of United States, 5 Dollars, 1838
View details Switch between front and back
Zoom using Flash

Purchase this image

Materials: Gold
Measurement: Dia. 22.3 mm, Wt. 8.308 g
Source: Unknown

United States, 5 Dollars, 1838

To process the gold and silver being mined in new locations, the federal government passed legislation to open three new branch mints in 1835: in Charlotte, North Carolina; Dahlonega, Georgia; and New Orleans, Louisiana. The first two would only strike coins from local gold. The third would mint coins from silver as well as from gold, because those two metals were pouring into the Crescent City from Latin America.

All three branch facilities opened their doors in 1838. The New Orleans Mint was a success from the very beginning. The other two suffered growing pains but finally reached full production in the 1850s. All three closed during the Civil War, but New Orleans eventually reopened in 1879 and remained a major player in the country’s monetary system until the first decade of the twentieth century. Charlotte and Dahlonega stayed closed.

A way was sought to distinguish the products of these new mints from those of the original one. Philadelphia had never marked its coins - there had been no need, with no other coiners in existence. But now a way was devised to show which coins came from where.

A mint mark, consisting of a single letter, would be placed on each of the products of the branch Mints — an O for New Orleans, a D for Dahlonega, and a C for Charlotte. The mint marks briefly appeared on the coins’ obverse, but then they were relegated to the reverse, where they remained.

Collectors call the 1838 Charlotte half eagle a "one-year type": coins of this design with the obverse mint mark were only struck during that single year. There were about seventeen thousand of them, compared with over a quarter million at Philadelphia.
Related Events
1832: President Andrew Jackson vetoes the charter of Bank of United States, abolishing the institution.
1836: The U. S. Mint first uses a steam-powered press.
1838: Branch mints open in Dahlonega, Ga.; Charlotte, N.C., and New Orleans, La.
1848: Gold is discovered at John Sutter's mill in California.
1861: The U.S. Civil War begins when Confederate forces attack Fort Sumter, South Carolina.
Golden Legends The following objects are in this section.
Templeton Reid, 10 Dollars, 1830United States, 5 Dollars, 1838Oregon Exchange Company, 5 Dollars, 1849Clark, Gruber & Co., 20 Dollars, 1860
Templeton Reid, 5 Dollars, 1830United States, 2 1/2 Dollars, 1848U.S. Assay Office, 50 Dollars, 1851 
Templeton Reid, 2 1/2 Dollars, 1830United States, 20 Dollars, 1849 (Pattern)Kellogg & Co., 50 Dollars, 1855 
Bechtlers, 5 Dollars, 1834Oregon Exchange Company, 10 Dollars, 1849United States, 50 Dollars, 1877 (Pattern) 
Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Behring Center Learning Resources Flash Exhibition
Copyright© Privacy Policy Press Credits