Ask the average man on the street to name all of the past and present United States mints and the one most likely to be missing from their list is the U.S. branch mint in Manila. Although most collectors of U.S. coins are vaguely aware that the United States operated a branch mint in the Philippine Islands, while they were under U.S. sovereignty, most lack a full understanding of the mint’s historical context and its important place in our nation’s numismatic history.
The goal of this Custom Registry Set is to tell the story of this important but often forgotten U.S. Branch Mint and its place our nation’s numismatic heritage. This registry set presents a fully illustrated and annotated Type Set of the coins and medals of the United States Manila Branch Mint. In setting the historical context for this important series of U.S. coins and medals, this presentation incorporates historical and 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.
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. The U.S. Manila Branch Mint can best be understood in the historical context of America's half century of "Nation Building" in the Philippines.
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)
The Manila Mint was the only United States branch mint ever established outside the continental limits of the U.S.A.
In 1920 the Manila Mint struck a special medal to commemorate the opening of Mint. The medal struck in Bronze (2,200), Silver (3,700), and Gold (estimate mintage of 5 to 10) is commonly referred to as the So-Called Wilson Dollar. The obverse presents a well executed portrait of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. The reverse shows a representation of "Juno Moneta" (the goddess of money and minting) kneeling and watching over a nude youth who is pouring planchets (coin blanks) into a coining press. The design used is a modification of a much earlier Morgan design that was used on several of the U.S. Assay Commissions Annual Medals in the 1880s and 1890s.
With the exception of the 1920 San Francisco One Centavo, which was produced prior to the opening of the Manila Mint, all U.S. coinage for the Philippines from 1920 through 1941 were produced at the Manila Mint. The mint had a daily output of 85,000 pieces and an annual capacity of 25,000,000 coins. Between July 1920 and December 1941 the Manila Mint produced 205.83 million regular issue U.S. Philippine business strikes.
Not every denomination was produced every year. In fact, regular issue business strikes of two denominations, the Half Centavo (which had been withdrawn from circulation in 1906) and the silver One Peso were never produced at the Manila Mint.
Like its contemporary, the U.S. Morgan Silver Dollar, the Silver Philippine Peso saw very limited circulation as merchants and the general public preferred the convenience of paper money to carrying pockets full of large heavy coins. Almost all One Peso coins were held in reserve in the Philippine Treasury as backing for the paper money issued by the Territory of the Philippines, and, after November 15, 1935, The Commonwealth of the Philippines. Since an adequate supply of Silver Pesos had been struck for this purpose at the San Francisco Mint between 1907 and 1912 there was no need for the Manila Mint to produce additional regular issue One Peso coins. The only One Peso coins struck at the Manila Mint were the two 1936 Commemorative Pesos, and special One Peso Leper coins produced for the Philippine Health Service.
The regular issue denominations produced at the Manila Mint were the One Centavo, Five Centavos, Ten Centavos, Twenty Centavos, and Fifty Centavos.
By far, the most numerous coin produced by the Manila Mint was the One Centavo. Between July 1920 and December 1941 the Manila Mint produced 142,317,095 regular issue One Centavo coins. More One Centavo coins were produced than all the other denominations combined. This work horse of the Philippine economy accounted for 69.14% of the regular issue coins produced by the Manila Mint.
Mintages for the other four denominations of regular issue coins struck at the Manila Mint and their percentages of the Manila Mints 1920 – 1941 production are as follows:
Five Centavos: 32,242,041 coins (15.66%)
Ten Centavos: 16,413,038 coins (7.98%)
Twenty Centavos: 12,123,046 coins (5.89%)
Fifty Centavos: 2,736,763 coins (1.33%)
"The Manila mint did not use a mint-mark on its coinage of 1920, 1921, and 1922. No Philippine coins were struck anywhere during 1923 or 1924. The Manila mint re-opened in 1925; from then through 1941, all U.S.- Philippine regular and commemorative issue were struck there and all bore the mint-mark M." (Shafer, 1961, p. 17)
By 1935 “Nation Building” had progressed to the point where the Philippines were ready to make the important transition from a U.S. Territory to a self-governing Commonwealth. A Constitution for the Philippines was approved, and on November 15, 1935, the Philippines were granted Commonwealth status, with a promise of full independence by 1946. To commemorate this important event a three coin commemorative set was struck by the Manila mint in 1936. The set consisted of a Fifty Centavos, and two One Peso Coins.
In addition to providing all of the regular issue and commemorative coinage for the Philippines from 1920 - 1941 the Manila Mint was also responsible for providing Leper Colony coinage for the Philippine Health Service. Between 1920 and 1930 five issues of Leper Colony coins were struck at the Manila Mint. The 1920 issue (10 Centavos, 20 Centavos and 1 Peso) have no mint mark. The 1922 issue (20 Centavos and 1 Peso) were stamped with the encircled initials "PM" (for Philippine Mint). The 1925 (1 Peso) and 1927 (One Centavo and Five Centavos) issues have the Mint Marks "P" and "M" on the reverse to the right and left of the value. The 1930 issue (One Centavo and 10 Centavos) have no mint marks.
Production at the Manila mint was discontinued during World War ll. 1944 and 1945 dated U.S./Philippine coins were produced at the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco Mints.
During WWII Manila was occupied by the Japanese from January 1942 until March 1945. On January 9, 1944 U.S. forces under the command of General Douglas MacArthur landed at Lingayen Gulf on the Island of Luzon and proceeded to fight their way south to liberate Manila. As the forces of liberation neared Manila the Japanese general in command of the Philippines ordered all of his forces to withdraw from the city. Unfortunately the commander of the Japanese Naval Defense Force in Manila disobeyed his orders and fortified the city.
The key to the cities defenses was the Intramuros, an ancient walled fortress built by the Spanish, and the strongly-built public buildings constructed by the Spanish and American administrations.
" a defensive plan centered on the inner stronghold of the ancient walled city of Intramuros. Beyond the walls was a semicircle of public buildings prepared for defense to the last man. Streets and structures were mined, and each building was adequately victualled to be self-sufficient. Intermixed with and beyond the public buildings was a cats cradle of mutually supporting antitank, machine-gun and rifle fire covering existing obstacles." (Connaughton, 1995, p. 108)
The Mint of the Philippine Islands was located in the Intendencia Building which was constructed by the Spanish in 1876 to earthquake-proof specifications. This made the mint building extremely strong and a natural fortress for the Japanese garrison of Manila which deployed strong defenses in and around the mint building. The mints location on the south bank of the Pasig River was only yards away from the only gap in the forty foot wide, 20-feet-high stone-block walls of the ancient walled fortress of the Intramuros.
"The great wall ended at the Intendencia building, or Government Mint, so that a gap like an open door led through into the enclosed city." (Connaugton, 1995, p. 163)
This placed the mint building directly on the Allied main axis of attack during the month long (February 3, 1945 - March 3, 1945) Battle of Manila.
The final allied attack on the Intramuros was an amphibious assault, by the 3rd Battalion, 129th Regiment, across the Pasig River, past the government mint, and through the gap in the walls of the Intramuros. In order to prevent heavy allied casualties during the attack, it was necessary for U.S. artillery to knock out the Japanese strongholds in and around the mint building.
The important task of neutralizing the Japanese strong point in the government mint was assigned to the biggest and most powerful field guns in the allied arsenal the 240-mm. (9.4 inch) “Black Dragon” howitzers. The “Black Dragon” fired a massive 360 pound artillery shell which was incredibly effective against fortifications. On the morning of February 22, 1945 "the 240-mm. howitzers of Battery C, 544 Field Artillery, began bombardment to breach the north wall (of Intramuros) and knock out a Japanese strong point at the government mint." (Smith, 1963, p295)
" The number of artillery pieces used in support of the assault on Intramuros exceeded 140...Also in support, and interspersed among the big guns, were 105mm self-propelled howitzers, tank destroyers and medium tanks...At 7:30 a.m. on February 23 (1945) the order Fire! was given. The corps and divisional artillery, tanks, tank destroyers, mortars and machine-guns...belched out volley after volley in what has been described as the most coordinated and devastating (artillery) preparation of the entire Luzon operation...The missions of the direct-fire weapons were oriented around the Government Mint." (Connaughton, 1995, p 164-166)
In the fierce fighting to liberate Manila from the Japanese much of the city, including the grand old Manila Mint, was destroyed.
"The Battle for Manila occupies a unique place in the history of the Pacific War. It was the only occasion on which American and Japanese forces fought each other in a city and it was the largest battle of its kind yet fought by either the American or Japanese armies. The destruction of Manila was on the same scale as the destruction of Warsaw...and smaller only than the battles of Berlin...and Stalingrad." (Connaughton, 1995, p 15).
This nighttime photograph of the Battle of Manila was taken by my father during the battle
It is perhaps fitting that the U.S. Manila Branch Mint, which was born out of America's “Nation Building” in the Philippines, should be destroyed in the fiery cauldron of the liberation of the Philippines. On July 4, 1946, just sixteen months after the Battle of Manila the Philippines became an independent republic, ending a historic and colorful chapter in U.S. history and numismatics. U.S. issued coins remained in use in the Philippines until the mid 60's.
Allen, Lyman L., U.S./Philippine Coins 6th Edition 2008-2009. Lyman Allen Rare Coins, Virginia City, NV, 2008.
Connaughton, Richard, John Pimlott and Duncan Anderson, The Battle For Manila. Presidio Press, Inc., Novato, CA, 1995.
Japanese Defense of Cities as Exemplified by The Battle for Manila, A Report by XIV Corps (HQ Sixth Army), July 1 1945.
McFadden, Roger R., John Grost, and Dennis F.Marr, The Numismatic Aspects of Leprosy: Money, Medals, and Miscellanea, D.C. McDonald Associates, Inc, 1993
Perez, Gilbert S, Ph.D. The Mint of the Philippine Islands, in Numismatic Notes and Monographs, No. 8. American Numismatic Society, N.Y., 1921
Shafer, Neil. United States Territorial Coinage For The Philippine Islands, Whitman Publishing Company, Racine, Wisconsin. 1961.
Smith, Robert Ross. United States Army in World War II. The War in the Pacific: Triumph in the Philippines, Washington DC, 1963.
Original letters written by my father during the Luzon Campaign
This collection presents a type set of the regular issue coinage, commemorative coins, commemorative medals, and Culion Leper Colony coins produced by the U.S. Manila Branch Mint.
The accompanying "Set Description" and individual coin descriptions cites historical and numismatic references to place this important series of coins and medals in its historical context.
In telling the story of the Manila Mint I have also included circa 1920 Photos of the Mint, a rare Photo Postcard of the mint after the Japanese bombing of December 26, 1941, and original color photographs taken by my father during the Liberation of the Philippines and the Battle of Manila. The photos can be viewed in either the "Gallery" or "Slide Show" modes. Detailed information on each of the World War ll photographs can be found by clicking on either the Photo Icon or View Coin Button and scrolling down to "Owner Comments".
COMMORATIVE MEDALS: Included in this set are examples of both the Bronze and Silver medals (So-Called Wilson Dollar) struck to commemorate the opening of the mint.
REGULAR ISSUE TERRITORIAL COINAGE: Includes examples of each of the various denominations and varieties of regular issue coinage struck at the Manila Mint during the Territorial period (1920 - 1936).
1936 COMMONWEALTH OF THE PHILIPPINES COMMEMORATIVES: Includes the three coin commemorate set struck by the Manila Mint to commemorate the establishment of the "Commonwealth of the Philippines".
REGULAR ISSUE COMMONWEALTH COINAGE: Includes examples of each of the various denominations and varieties of regular issue coinage struck at the Manila Mint during the Commonwealth period (1937 - 1941).
CULION LEPER COLONY COINAGE: Includes examples of each of the various denominations and varieties of Culion Leper Colony coinage struck at the Manila Mint.