By David Finkelstein
The Waste Book and Bullion Journal were used to log the deposits of silver and gold bullion, the transfer of silver and gold bullion/coins between the officers of the Mint, and the return of coins to depositors. There were three additional ledgers that recorded the transfer of copper, silver and gold coins from the Chief Coiner to the Treasurer of the Mint; the Copper Account Book, the Silver Account Book, and the Gold Account Book.
The Silver Account Book
To date, the Silver Account Book has not been located within the Mint holdings at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). It is unclear if the Silver Account Book was ever part of the NARA holdings. We know that it existed because the Copper Account Book (Figure 1) and the Gold Account Book (Figure 3) exist.
The Copper Account Book
The Copper Account Book identifies the number of copper coins, by delivery warrant number, by delivery date, and by denomination, that were delivered from the Chief Coiner to the Treasurer of the Mint. Each page is for a 3 month period. See Figure 2. The Copper Coinage Act of May 8, 1792 gave the Director of the Mint the authority to purchase up to 150 tons of copper and strike Half Cents and Cents. Whereas the Mint & Coinage Act of April 2, 1792 defined a high level workflow for converting silver and gold bullion into money, the Copper Coinage Act did not. The copper workflow, as well as the events that triggered the movement of copper and copper coins within the Mint was left up to the discretion of the Director of the Mint. Mint ledgers indicate that copper and copper coin movement between the officers of the Mint through March, 1796 may not have been triggered by Director warrants. This changed on March 31, 1796, when the first Director copper delivery warrant was issued.
The Gold Account Book identifies the number of gold coins, by delivery warrant number, by delivery date, and by denomination, that were delivered from the Chief Coiner to the Treasurer of the Mint. Each page is for a 3 month period. Figures 4, 5, 6 and 7 are pages from the Gold Account Book for 1798 Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4. Note delivery warrant 6, dated February 12, 1798 in Figure 4. The gold coins delivered per this warrant (1 Quarter Eagle, 3 Half Eagles, and 11 Eagles) are listed after delivery warrant 106 and before delivery warrant 109. This delivery warrant was not for coins to be returned to a depositor, but for coins to be reserved for assaying. In this case, the 6 in the “No” column stands for assay delivery warrant 6.
The Mint and Coinage Act of April 2, 1792 required samples of the silver and gold coins made by the Mint over the preceding 12 months to be assayed on the last Monday in July of each year. The Act Regulating Foreign Coins of February 9, 1793 changed the assay date to the second Monday in February. Coins reserved for assaying were pulled from regular coinage production at various times, as specified on assay warrants issued by the Director. The coins were assayed at the Mint in the presence of the Director of the Mint, the Assayer, and the Chief Coiner, and under the inspection of at least 3 of the following: the Chief Justice of the United States, the Secretary and Comptroller of the Treasury, the Secretary for the department of State, and the Attorney General of the United States. Mint ledgers referred to this group of people as “commissioners appointed by law” or what we refer to today as the Assay Commission.
Since the Gold Account Book recorded the gold assay delivery warrants, it is logical to conclude that the Silver Account Book recorded the silver assay delivery warrants.
The Director of the Mint issued a yearly report concerning the state of the Mint. This report was presented to Congress. It included the yearly totals of the copper, silver and gold coins issued by the Mint (see Figure 8).
Analysis of the Waste Book, Bullion Journal, Gold Account Book, and Director of the Mint yearly reports has resulted in the following observations:
1. The silver and gold assay warrants were logged in both the Waste Book and Bullion Journal. These entries specified the standard weight (in troy ounces, pennyweights and grains) and value of the coins reserved for assaying. The entries did not specify the number of coins reversed for assaying.
2. The specific number of coins, by denomination, that were reserved for assaying were only logged in the Gold Account Book, and by deduction, the Silver Account Book.
3. When a Director assay delivery warrant was issued, the specified number of silver or gold coins that were to be reserved for assaying were transferred from the custody of the Chief Coiner to the custody of the Treasurer of the Mint.
4. Entries in the Waste Book and Bullion Journal confirm that on the date of the annual assaying (the second Monday in February), two Director’s warrants were issued to transfer the silver and gold coins reserved for assaying from the custody of the Treasurer of the Mint to the custody of the Chief Coiner.
5. The coins reserved for assaying were not included in the coinage figures in the Director of the Mint’s yearly reports. For example: The gold coinage totals for calendar year 1798 in Figure 8 do not include the coins identified in assay warrants 6, 8 and 10 (see Figures 4, 5 and 6). The number of Quarter Eagles delivered from the Chief Coiner to the Treasurer of the Mint during calendar year 1798 were 256 + 1 + 298 + 1 + 60 + 2 or 618. The Director of the Mint’s yearly report for 1798 specified that the Quarter Eagle coinage was 614. The coinage figure did not include the 4 Quarter Eagles that were reserved for assaying.
The silver and gold coins reserved for assaying originated from multiple silver and gold bullion deposits that resulted in the minting of hundreds, thousands, and possibly tens of thousands of coins. These bullion deposits were received by the Treasurer of the Mint, assayed by the Assayer, melted and refined into ingots by the Melter & Refiner, then transferred to the custody of the Chief Coiner so they could be rolled into sheets, cut into planchets, and struck into coins. When the Director of the Mint issued an assay delivery warrant, a few coins were transferred to the custody of the Treasurer of the Mint so they could be reserved for assaying. The value of the coins were credited to the Treasurer of the Mint’s silver or gold assay coin account (not to be confused with his silver or gold coin account).
To be continued…