The Exchange : Confederate coinage: The story of four unique coins struck at the New Orleans Mint

Confederate coinage: The story of four unique coins struck at the New Orleans Mint

This May, the National Money show will be hosted by the city of New Orleans. The city was founded in 1708 by the French. Due to it being a port city, New Orleans has been a historically significant city, especially during times of war. During the Civil War, New Orleans made a mark in the history books for another reason.

 

During the Civil War, in February 1861, the New Orleans Mint was taken over by the Confederates and renamed the Confederate State Mint.  The Confederates had the idea of starting their own coinage, but that plan quickly failed. Nevertheless, the Confederate State Mint did strike four extremely collectible coins.

 

Three mints in the South were taken over by Confederates shortly after the Civil War began in 1861. The mints in Charlotte, N.C., and Dahlonega, Ga., were relegated to office status due to a shortage of bullion.

 

The New Orleans Mint continued to operate. In 1861, the mint produced coinage for three governments: the United States, the state of Louisiana during the time the mint was taken over by the state, and the Confederate States of America.

 

Christopher Memminger, Confederate treasury secretary, had the idea of the Confederate states minting its own coinage.  He approved a half-dollar design with the obverse displaying was the standard federal seated Liberty figure; on the reverse side was a new confederate coat of arms surrounded by cotton and sugar cane. 

 1861_conf _half _obv

(Obverse Side: 1861 Confederate half dollar)

1861_conf _half _rev

(Reverse Side: 1861 Confederate half dollar)

With the design approved, minting could begin. Except, there was one major issue: The price of silver was rising so high that it made it impossible to obtain.  Memminger spent more time thinking about producing the Confederate coinage; ultimately, he believed that producing the Confederate coinage would be futile for his government. 

 

Four Confederate half-dollars were minted. It is presumed that the recipients were Southern President Jefferson Davis, University of Louisiana Professor John L. Riddell, Dr. E. Ames of New Orleans, and Chief Coiner of the Confederate States Mint B.F. Taylor. 

 

With its remaining bullion, the New Orleans Mint produced standard federal coinage until it closed in April 1861. The mint reopened its doors 18 years later in 1879.

 

In 1861, between all three governments, the New Orleans Mint created 2,532,633 half-dollars.  

 

The die from the Confederate half-dollar was sold and ended up in the hands of J. Walter Scott, who used the die to create restrikes.  Original restrikes can be valued at $4,000 to $10,000.  However, the most valuable and collectible half-dollars are not the restrikes, but the original four Confederate half-dollars.

 

To learn more about numismatics of New Orleans, plan a trip today to the National Money Show this May and experience the unique culture and rich numismatic history associated with the city.

Written by Brandon Ortega at 00:00

2 Comments :

This is a fairly standard version of the story concerning the Confederate Half dollar that has been told for over 100 years. Unfortunately the story is part myth unsupported in fact. What documentary evidence that exists strongly suggest thing a bit different. Apportioning the approx. 2.5 million federal half dollar among three governments is the first to be mostly the fiction of someone's imagination. The state of Louisiana may have had operational control but for a few days at best. In the first week of February of 1861 the state signed on to the Provisional Constitution of the Confederate States of America. That document like the U.S.A. Constitution forbids the state from coining money. Operational control was with the Confederate government almost immediately. After 35 years of research nobody has ever been able to show where Memminger approved the design deployed in the reverse of the Confederate half dollar. B.F. Taylor's letter so states, but there is no official record as such. In fact there are no official mint records that those coins were ever struck! The presumption of Jefferson Davis having one of the coins is also highly suspect and unsupported in evidence. The Davis letter of 1879 specifically declines to identify the "Confederate coin" he had as being a "duplicate of the one to which you refer, I cannot say" (paraphrased) The Taylor letter of 1879 says they were struck in late April yet as of the 9th of April they had yet to secure the services of an engraver. In fact the order to cease operations at the mints was not given until mid May with a closing date of June 1, 1861. The coins were struck in the last week of May. There are other inconsistencies in the myths and legends of the Confederacy and their coins. It is imperative we stop repeating the old stories and reevaluate on what evidence exists! There are researchers who have documentary evidence that casts doubt on the legends.
March 14, 2013 06:44
This is a fairly standard version of the story concerning the Confederate Half dollar that has been told for over 100 years. Unfortunately the story is part myth unsupported in fact. What documentary evidence that exists strongly suggest things a bit different. Apportioning the approx. 2.5 million federal half dollar among three governments is the first to be mostly the fiction of someone's imagination. The state of Louisiana may have had operational control but for a few days at best. In the first week of February of 1861 the state signed on to the Provisional Constitution of the Confederate States of America. That document like the U.S.A. Constitution forbids the state from coining money. Operational control was with the Confederate government almost immediately. After 35 years of research nobody has ever been able to show where Memminger approved the design deployed in the reverse of the Confederate half dollar. B.F. Taylor's letter so states, but there is no official record as such. In fact there are no official mint records that those coins were ever struck! The presumption of Jefferson Davis having one of the coins is also highly suspect and unsupported in evidence. The Davis letter of 1879 specifically declines to identify the "Confederate coin" he had as being a "duplicate of the one to which you refer, I cannot say" (paraphrased) The Taylor letter of 1879 says they were struck in late April yet as of the 9th of April they had yet to secure the services of an engraver. In fact the order to cease operations at the mints was not given until mid May with a closing date of June 1, 1861. The coins were struck in the last week of May. There are other inconsistencies in the myths and legends of the Confederacy and their coins. It is imperative we stop repeating the old stories and reevaluate on what evidence exists! There are researchers who have documentary evidence that casts doubt on the legends.
March 14, 2013 06:48

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