Coinage Act of 1873

Under an 1853 act, depositors could no longer have their metal struck into half dollars.
John Jay Knox, photographed by Mathew Brady
Senator John Sherman shepherded the bill through Congress.
The standard silver dollar was abolished by the Coinage Act of 1873.
Medal (by Chief Engraver William Barber) struck for the 1873 Assay Commission. The casket on the reverse honors Philadelphia Mint Assayer Jacob Eckfeldt, who had recently died.
The Trade dollar, intended for use in the Far East, became controversial when circulated in the U.S.
The gold standard triumphant: a caricature from Puck magazine, 1900.
The arrows by the date of this half dollar show that it is one made after the Coinage Act increased its weight to 12.5 grams.

General revision of laws relating to the Mint of the United States.

- Coinage Act of 1873

77 related topics


Free silver

Major economic policy issue in the United States in the late 19th-century.

Republican campaign poster of 1896 attacking free silver
"The free silver highwayman at it again" in 1896
Cartoon from Puck showing a silverite farmer and a Democratic donkey whose wagon has been destroyed by the locomotive of sound money
1896 editorial cartoon equating the free silver movement with Frankenstein's monster.
Entitled, "A down-hill movement" by C.J. Taylor in 1896

The debate over silver lasted from the passage of the Fourth Coinage Act in 1873, which demonetized silver and was called the "Crime of '73" by opponents, until 1963, when the Silver Purchase Act of 1934, which allowed the U.S. President and U.S Department of Treasury to regulate U.S silver, was completely repealed by Public Law 88-36.

United States Mint

Bureau of the Department of the Treasury responsible for producing coinage for the United States to conduct its trade and commerce, as well as controlling the movement of bullion.

The First U.S. Branch Mint in California is located at 608–619 Commercial Street, San Francisco, San Francisco County. The branch opened on April 3, 1854. Today the building houses the Pacific Heritage Museum.
First United States Mint (Philadelphia photo from 1904)
The Philadelphia Mint
The Denver Mint
A coin press built for the San Francisco Mint by Morgan & Orr in 1873. It is currently located at the ANA Money Museum in Colorado Springs.
Lincoln memorial cent, with the S mintmark of the San Francisco mint.
Reverse of a wartime nickel, with the P mintmark of the Philadelphia mint located above Monticello

Under the Coinage Act of 1873, the Mint became part of the Department of the Treasury.

Gold standard

Monetary system in which the standard economic unit of account is based on a fixed quantity of gold.

Two golden 20 kr coins from the Scandinavian Monetary Union, which was based on a gold standard. The coin to the left is Swedish and the one on the right is Danish.
Gold certificates were used as paper currency in the United States from 1882 to 1933. These certificates were freely convertible into gold coins.
The British gold sovereign or £1 coin was the preeminent circulating gold coin during the classical gold standard period.
Huge quantities of $20 double eagles were minted as a result of the California gold rush.
The US dollar was said to be on a limping standard due to huge quantities of Morgan silver dollars continuing to circulate at par with gold dollars despite their silver value being less.
William McKinley ran for president on the basis of the gold standard.
Ending the gold standard and economic recovery during the Great Depression.
Gold prices (US dollars per troy ounce) from 1914, in nominal US dollars and inflation adjusted US dollars.

1873, United States dollar, by the Coinage Act of 1873: from 24.0566 g silver to 1.50463 g gold; ratio 15.99


Monetary standard in which the value of the monetary unit is defined as equivalent to certain quantities of two metals, typically gold and silver, creating a fixed rate of exchange between them.

Croeseid bimetallic equivalence: 1 gold Croeseid of 8.1 grams was equivalent in value to 10 silver Croeseids of 10.8 grams.
Achaemenid bimetallic equivalence: 1 gold Daric was equivalent in value to 20 silver Sigloi. Under the Achaemenids the exchange rate in weight between gold and silver was 1 to 13.
1896 Republican poster warns against free silver.

Bimetallism was effectively abandoned by the Coinage Act of 1873, but not formally outlawed as legal currency until the early 20th century.

Panic of 1873

Financial crisis that triggered an economic depression in Europe and North America that lasted from 1873 to 1877 or 1879 in France and in Britain.

A bank run on the Fourth National Bank No. 20 Nassau Street, New York City, from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 4 October 1873
New York police violently attacking unemployed workers in Tompkins Square Park, 1874
Black Friday, 9 May 1873, Vienna Stock Exchange

A period of economic overexpansion arose from the northern railroad boom before a series of economic setbacks: the Black Friday panic of 1869, the Chicago fire of 1871, an outbreak of equine influenza and the Boston fire of 1872, and the demonetization of silver in 1873.

Nickel (United States coin)

Five-cent coin struck by the United States Mint.

A 1796 half dime
Spencer M. Clark, Supervisor of the Currency Bureau, placed his own likeness on the five-cent U.S. Fractional currency note, leading directly to legislation prohibiting the depiction of any living person on U.S. currency.
Postcard for Horn & Hardart restaurants, 1930s.
Ad placed by Brown in The Numismatist, December 1919
Chief Iron Tail, circa 1912

Half dimes continued to be struck, at both the Philadelphia and the San Francisco Mint, until the series was ended by the Coinage Act of 1873.

Gold Standard Act

Act of the United States Congress, signed by President William McKinley and effective on March 14, 1900, defining the United States dollar by gold weight and requiring the United States Treasury to redeem, on demand and in gold coin only, paper currency the Act specified.

In 1868, this committee of representatives prosecuted President Andrew Johnson in his impeachment trial, but the Senate did not convict him.

The Act formalized the American gold standard that the Coinage Act of 1873, which demonetized silver, had established by default.

John Jay Knox Jr.

American financier and government official.

Photograph of Knox, by Mathew Brady
John Jay Knox's portrait was featured on the $100 National Bank Notes of the series of 1902.

He is best remembered as a primary author of the Coinage Act of 1873, which discontinued the use of the silver dollar.

John Sherman

Politician from the U.S. state of Ohio during the American Civil War and into the late nineteenth century.

Photograph by Mathew Brady
Sherman at age 19
Margaret Cecilia Stewart
Congressman John Sherman
Sherman worked with Justin Smith Morrill to pass tariff legislation in 1860.
A Demand Note (top) and a United States Note (bottom)
Senator John Sherman
A silver dollar of the type Sherman said he never saw in circulation
A cartoon from the April 9, 1870 issue of Harper's Weekly anticipates the resumption of government payments in precious-metal coins.
Hayes's cabinet in 1877
Sherman appointed John Jay to investigate corruption in the New York Custom House.
James A. Garfield emerged the unexpected nominee at the 1880 Republican National Convention.
While serving in the Senate, Sherman lived in this house at 1323 K St. NW, Washington, D.C.
Sherman in his Senate office, about 1894
An 1885 political cartoon accuses Sherman and Foraker of fanning section hatred for political gain.
An 1889 cartoon suggests that the monopolies held too much power over Congress.
A $100 Treasury Note, authorized by the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, redeemable in gold or silver coin
Caricature by Mecachis published in Blanco y Negro (March 21, 1896) depicting Sherman, then Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the suggestion for the kind of diplomacy that should be enacted by Spain.
An 1897 political cartoon by Louis Dalrymple depicts Sherman as a young woman attempting to answer major U.S. diplomatic questions by playing the game He loves me ... he loves me not.
Sherman's home in Mansfield, Ohio

Grant's Treasury Secretary, George S. Boutwell, sent Sherman (who was by now Senate Finance Committee Chairman) a draft of what would become the Coinage Act of 1873.

Dime (United States coin)

Ten-cent coin, one tenth of a United States dollar, labeled formally as "one dime".

1792 Disme copper pattern
1820 Capped Bust dime
1874 cc Seated Liberty dime, with arrows
1892 Barber Dime
1936 Winged Liberty Head (Mercury) dime
The plaque of Roosevelt at the Recorder of Deeds Building in Washington, D.C.

The first change was made in response to rising silver prices, while the latter alteration was brought about by the Mint Act of 1873 which, in an attempt to make U.S. coinage the currency of the world, added a small amount of mass to the dime, quarter, and half-dollar to bring their weights in line with fractions of the French 5-franc piece.