For over 80 years since its founding, the U.S. Mint worked to increase production for it to be the sole supplier of coins for the young country. During that time, foreign coins, specifically the Spanish Milled Dollar (8 Real silver coin) was legal tender and served daily commerce. Congress revoked their legal tender status with the passage of the Coinage Act of 1857 making the U.S. Mint the sole supplier of coins in the United States.
Although the U.S. Mint was supposed to be building to supply the country with coins, it was taking on contract minting since it was the only entity with the ability to strike high quality medals. The first record of producing medals for someone other than the government was in 1833 for the American Colonization Society, a group whose purpose was to transport free-born blacks and emancipated slaves back to Africa and settle what today is known as Liberia.
Congress authorized the U.S. Mint to strike circulating coinage for foreign governments with the passage of the Act of January 29, 1874, “Provided, That the manufacture of such coin shall not interfere with the required coinage of the United States.”
The first legal tender coins produced for a foreign government was struck at Philadelphia for the Venezuelan government in 1875-1876 dated 1876-1877. The last circulating foreign coins were struck for Panama in 1983 when congress revoked the authorization because it began to interfere with domestic coin production.
The last time a coin was struck for a foreign country was in 2000 when the Leif Ericson commemorative silver coins were produced for domestic sales and for Iceland. The Iceland coin was struck with a face value of 1,000 Krónur.
Between the first coins struck for Venezuela and the Leif Ericson Commemorative Coin for Iceland, the U.S. Mint produced 1,127 coin types, not including varieties, for 43 countries. Coins were produced in gold, varied fineness of silver, bronze, brass, copper-nickel, nickel, steel, aluminum, and steel. Foreign coins were produced at Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, New Orleans, West Point, and Manila.
After the Philippines became a colony of the United States, the U.S. Mint established a branch mint in Manila in 1920. It is the only branch mint outside of the continental United States. Coins struck in Manila used the “M” mintmark making it the first foreign coin produced with a U.S. mintmark. The first foreign coins struck with a mintmark from one of the continental U.S. branch mints was the “P” that appeared on four different foreign coins in 1941. However, these were not the first time a foreign coin was identified as being struck in Philadelphia. In 1895, the word “PHILADELPHIA” was incorporated into the design of the reverse on the Ecuadorian 2 decimos coin.