New Orleans Mint Rises By Kerry Rodgers
March 20, 2008
The rebirth of New Orleans as a tourist destination means
collectors who plan a visit should arrange to stop by the
New Orleans Mint Museum.
The museum has been back in business for six months, fully
recovered from the wrath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. And
there is a wealth of revamped and new exhibitions to see.
When the museum reopened this past October, most of the structure
had been renovated, along with a new coat of paint, refurbished
plaster, fencing and flagstones, a new carpet and an HVAC
system. A brand new and enhanced copper roof replaced what
had been stripped, twisted and tossed into nearby streets
by the caress of Katrina.
Top of many numismatists must-do list will be the exhibits
showing the full range of coins minted at New Orleans. The
museum has been blessed by the many collectors and benefactors
who have donated or loaned historic New Orleans-struck coins
to ensure the display is as complete as possible.
Rick Demers provided his complete date collection of New
Orleans Mint silver coinage, with other notable gold and silver
coins and coin-related artifacts coming from Lynn Ourso, Frank
Patty, Mark Sheldon, and Robert B. Lecce.
Once again U.S. collectors can lust over that du Pont 1861-O
half dollar back in all its glory courtesy of Robert LeNeve.
This rarity had gone on display prior to Katrina's arrival
but, fortunately, along with all other coins, did not suffer
any damage from the storm.
For those into shipwreck coins, a number are on display from
the S.S. Republic, loaned to the Louisiana State Museum by
Odyssey Marine Exploration. They include the coins used by
Randy Wiley to describe the die marriages of 1861-O half dollars
in the Gobrecht Journal that determined what was struck under
federal control, state control and finally, Confederate control
as the nation slid into division and Civil War.
The exhibit on the "O" mint's history has been
totally revamped and expanded. Among new additions is a section
on the archaeology of the mint. Many of the artifacts on display
were uncovered during archaeological excavations undertaken
back in 1978 in preparation for full makeover of the Mint's
buildings and grounds, prior to their re-opening as a State
Museum in 1981. Found objects included remnants of tools,
children's toys, animal bones, and coining implements.
Other historic items have arrived via a goodly dose of Southern
generosity. One recent acquisition is a personnel ledger book
recording the daily work hours of Mint employees for the years
1898 through 1900. It came via Curtis and Cora Egdorf.
Back in the 1980s the couple had taken over the lease of
a local store. The previous tenants had cleared out their
belongings but left a large pile of trash. Before consigning
this seeming garbage to the dump, the Egdorfs had a quick
scrabble through it and uncovered the New Orleans Mint ledger,
plus a book providing "Tables and Methods for Ascertaining
the Weight and the Coinage Value of Gold and Silver and the
Ounces of Standard Fineness Contained in Bullion from .0001/2
to 1.000 Fine," photographs of the Mardi Gras from around
1900 and other notable ephemera. All were historically significant
and all have been donated by the Egdorfs to the Louisiana
The ledger is now on display. In contrast to the mint officers
listed in the annual reports, it shows the names of the actual
workmen involved in coining, and the time each spent working
in the facility day by day.
Ledgers aren't light reading, but they may prove helpful
And visitors should not overlook the other artifacts associated
with coining. These include a small coin press purported to
have been purchased from the Mint by Mardi Gras doubloon maker
Alvin Sharp following its closure in 1909 and its much older
Big Brother: a Morgan and Orr press of 1868 that could strike
up to 1,500 coins per hour.
Numismatic News wishes to thank Greg Lambousy, director of
Collections at the Louisiana State Museum, for the images
and information used in this report, and the sterling efforts
of the museum staff in restoring this important icon of U.S.
A fund has been established by the Louisiana Museum Foundation
to allow for acquisition of New Orleans Mint coins by the
Louisiana State Museum.