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The United States Manila Mint: Historical Context



This weekend marks the 75th anniversary of the destruction of the United States Manila Mint during the largest and most destructive urban battle fought by U.S. troops during the Second World War.

In recognition of the important role the Manila Mint played in our nation's numismatic heritage I am posting a series of four journal articles on this often forgotten mint. Today's Journal article (2/20/2015) covers the establishment of the Mint and the Mint's historical context. Tomorrow's Journal article (2/21/2015) will cover the coins and medals of the Manila Mint. The final two Journals in this series (2/22/2015 and 2/23/2015) will cover the battle of Manila and the destruction of the Mint during the fierce fighting that took place in and around the Mint on 2/22/1945 and 2/23/1945.

The U.S. Manila Mint can best be understood in the historical context of America's half century of "Nation Building" in the Philippines.

After the United States defeated Spain in the Spanish-American war of 1898, the Philippines, along with Puerto Rico, became United States possessions. Unlike other colonial powers the U.S. always had intentions of giving the Philippine Islands full independence once the basis for good government was established.

Although regular U.S. coins and paper money were used in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories, the economy of the Philippines was too poor to use the U.S. dollar.

In 1902 a bill was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt, authorizing a new and distinct coinage to be struck for use in the United States Territory of the Philippines.

The bill provided that the coins should be struck at Manila if, practicable, (or in U.S. mints at a charge covering the reasonable cost of the work) and that subsidiary and minor coinage should bear devices and inscriptions expressing a dual concept - the sovereignty of the United States, and the fact that the coins were for circulation in the Philippine Islands. (Shafer, 1961)

Despite the intent of the 1902 legislation that coins be struck at Manila, it would be nearly twenty years before this was accomplished.

From 1903 through the first half of 1920 all United States coinage for the Philippine Islands were produced at either the San Francisco or Philadelphia mints. The San Francisco mint was the exclusive provider of U.S. Philippine business strikes from 1908 through mid 1920.

On February 8, 1918, the Philippine legislature passed a bill appropriating 100,000 pesos for the construction of machinery for a new mint. This bill was signed by Governor-General Harrison eight days later. The machinery was designed and built in Philadelphia under the supervision of Clifford Hewitt, then chief engineer of the United States mint. In June 1919, it was assembled, tested and found satisfactory. It was then shipped to the Philippine Islands via the Panama Canal, arriving at Manila in November. Mr. Hewitt supervised the installation of the machinery and trained the Filipino employees of the mint. The mint was formally opened on Thursday morning, July 15, 1920. (Perez, 1921)

From the time of it's opening through 1941 all of U.S. coinage for the Philippines were produced at the Manila Mint.

The Manila Mint was the only United States Mint ever established outside the continental limits of the U.S.A.

To learn more about the U.S. Manila Mint please visit my Custom Registry Set, The United States Manila Mint, Complete at:



I was honored that NGC selected this set as the 2014 Most Creative Custom Registry Set. The set presents a complete fully illustrated and annotated set of the coins and medals of the United States Manila Mint as well as numismatic references, circa 1920 photographs (from the National Archives), and original color photographs taken by my father during the World War ll liberation of the Philippines.


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