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Mintz's Mint in the Box Mint Cars
By Bob Mintz
(updated Winter 2017)
Associate Authors and Contributors and Assistance by: Mike Stella, Newt Derby, Stuart Rankin, Joe Endicott, Shannon Sikora, Charles Janiga, Bill Fessenden, Allen Glenney, Dr. Joseph Lechner, Al Otten, Bill Schmeelk, Dennis Clad, Matt Irvin, Jon Bonds, John Trotta, and Carol McGinnis.
"The Congress shall have the Power…To Coin Money." (Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 8.)
When the framers of the U.S. Constitution created a new government for their untried Republic, they realized the critical need for a respected monetary system. Soon after the Constitution's ratification, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton personally prepared plans for a national Mint. On April 2, 1792, Congress passed The Coinage Act, which created the Mint and authorized construction of a Mint building in the nation's capitol, Philadelphia. This was the first federal building erected under the Constitution.
President George Washington appointed Philadelphian David Rittenhouse, a leading American scientist, as the first Director of the Mint. Under Rittenhouse, the Mint produced its first circulating coins -- 11,178 copper cents, which were delivered in March 1793. Soon after, the Mint began issuing gold and silver coins as well. President Washington, who lived only a few blocks from the new Mint, is believed to have donated some of his own silver for minting.
When the United States government began minting coins in 1792, the original Mint facility in Philadelphia was hard-pressed to produce enough currency for our small country.
As the country grew and the demand for coins increased, it became necessary to expand Mint facilities. This expansion was further fueled by the discovery of gold, first in the Southeast and later in the West, and by the need for hard currency, which caused people to mint their own gold coins. In the mid-nineteenth century, additional mints were opened in Charlotte, NC; Dahlonega, GA; New Orleans, LA; and San Francisco, CA. In 1870, the Carson City, NV Mint opened, and in 1904 the Denver, CO Assay Office became a Mint facility. After the Civil War ended, many mint facilities and assay offices were opened in places like Carson City, St. Louis, Seattle, Boise, Helena, Deadwood, Salt Lake City, and New York. Many closed in the early 1900s because better technology and transportation made them unnecessary.
Today, in order to keep our economy flowing smoothly, the U.S. Mint maintains facilities in Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, and West Point, and a bullion depository in Fort Knox, KY.”
Bureau of Engraving
“The establishment of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing can be traced as far back as August 29, 1862, to a single room in the basement of the main Treasury building where two men and four women separated and sealed by hand $1 and $2 United States Notes which had been printed by private bank note companies. Today there are approximately 2,500 employees who work out of two buildings in Washington, D.C. and a new facility located in Fort Worth, Texas.”
A LITTLE HISTORY ABOUT MINTZ:
[I would like to dedicate this article to the memories of my father Harry Mintz and grandfather Nathan Miller, both of whom had absolutely no idea what they started with the purchase of a simple toy present for a then four year old, and are now playing trains hopefully with the likes of Joshua Lionel Cowan]--bob
It seems that both TCA and I will be sharing a 50th Anniversary this year.
I never figured that my last name would have any significance with my hobby/obsession. Little did I know that this particular area of collecting would take on a life of its own, as this photo taken at the Central Operating Lines Ltd. in Ronkonkoma L.I., New York shows.
My ancestral roots can be traced back to Vienna, Austria for all four grandparents. I did a little research and there was a town or region in Germany known as Mintz, not the Russian town of Minsk, as some of my childhood friends would tease me about. Similar to Italian surnames, many Germanic last names were derived from either the area that you originated from or your occupation; i.e. Miller (my maternal grandfather). One would imagine that metallurgy may have been done in the area of my paternal relatives.
A LITTLE HISTORY ABOUT THE MINT CARS:
A mint-type car is first seen in the 1961 catalog on page 31, with a divine-like hand depositing a coin from the heavens into the coffers of the new #6445 Fort Knox Gold Bullion Transport Car through the slot in the roof. This bank was made from the #3435 aquarium car mold. The car was part of set #1649 “027” 5-car “Santa Fe” two unit diesel freight. One would need divine intervention to be able to afford the constant onslaught of mint cars in the distant future.
Retrieving money from this vault would prove difficult for a small child as a Phillips-head screw would need to be removed from one end of the car. Who knew from a Phillips-head screwdriver back when you were 4? And who would allow a 4-year old to play unsupervised with ANY type of screwdriver back in 1958? What 4-year old had “change” back then for that matter. Back when Dad could have been feeding them into an apparatus for serving foods mechanically, when the coin was dropped in the slot of your local Horn & Hardart’s Automat?
This would not be the first car to be a piggy-bank, as page 25 from the same catalog would show the new # 6050 savings bank car, or a “safe” or vault type car as Lionel LLC would later re-issue 6-19439, a remake of a Standard gauge piece.
Not to exclude Super-“O” track (“the very best”), a second set #2571 Super “O” 4-car Ft. Knox Special steam freight was produced. The copy mentions “Worth its weight in gold! Stacks of gold bullion are being transported to the vault for safe keeping. Because the cargo is so valuable…a helicopter has been assigned to serve as an “advance scout.””
How curious that a helicopter car would be pulled by a die-cast steam loco!
Page 52 would show our silver colored car as a separate sale item retailing for $5.95 including copy mentioning: ““see-thru” windows which display rows of simulated gold bars on their way to Ft. Knox for safekeeping.”
Truth in advertising laws being many years in the future, was there ever a reason to think that these were actual gold bars? And why “advertise” its contents to the world at large?
The 1962 catalog on page 20 shows #13036 Super “O” 6-unit “Plainsman” steam outfit with an incorrectly red-colored bullion car (to be made by Lionel, LLC down the pike as #19677). The 1962 catalog copy stated:
“Right from the pages of history! The “General” is racing east with a valuable load of gold stored in the specially designed Gold Bullion Car. Outlaws have attempted to hold up the train and an exciting gun battle is raging between a lawman and one of the outlaws.”
Again, I am writing this in the more politically correct 21st century, but what exactly IS exciting about a gun battle anyway, especially when bullets are whizzing by your head? This is what you get when you publicize the contents of your rolling stock to the likes of the Frito Bandito.
I am not sure which editions of The Encyclopedia Britannica were used by those copywriters in 1962, but the bullion depository that was built at Fort Knox, Kentucky by The U.S. Bullion Depository did not open until 1937, a tad after wood-burning steam engines most likely were still in service! They did get the fact correct in that the first shipment of gold WAS brought in by railroad, but hopefully NOT by a General-style locomotive.
Interesting how an ad for No. 1063 and No. 1044 transformer would have set #13036 in it without the mint car, but in the ZW ad on the next page, the Texas Special set #11252 has the correct silver mint car in it, and a hodge-podge of other rolling stock.
A surprise entry in the 1962 catalog would be an HO version in set #14084, although the General has now been replaced with what looks like a miniature Santa Fe F-3, but those sheriffs and outlaws still abound in those Warbonnet days. Historically, this is also incorrect as GM EMD completed the earlier FT103 which began an 83,764 mile tour on November 25, 1939, nearly two years AFTER Ft. Knox opened.
Ironically, the “NEW!” #0845 HO Gold Bullion transport car, which shared the same body shell as #0872-200 REA reefer, sold for the very same “bigger guy” price of $5.95, also as a separate sale item.
The #6445 was shown in both O/027 and HO versions as a separate-sale item again for the last time in 1963; only as a separate-sale HO item in 1964; in 1965 & 1966 (and supposedly in 1967 when the 1966 catalog was used again) when the retail price of #0845 increased a nickel to $6.00. No HO sets were made in the remainder of the Postwar years 1968 and 1969.
This seemed to be the beginning and conclusion of mint cars series, or so we thought.
With the advent of personal computers and databases, the word “MINT” would have conflicting definitions in the train collecting/operating populace, as the title of this piece suggests. A search of the word “MINT” may come up with the TCA DESCRIPTION/GRADING STANDARDS of MINT as: “Brand New, absolutely unmarred, all original and unused.” Or a field in the database may describe ANY piece that you have in MINT condition, and a data “sort” of your mint car collection would be corrupted by these precious pieces.
Nevertheless, the accepted term for the original #6445/0845 Gold Bullion transport has been Mint Car. After all, the interchangeable “load” has been made in gold, silver and even “platinum” (looks silver to me) schemes, and sold in the after-market both with and without an official TCA coin.
The Lionel Corp. had sponsored train layouts in New York’s Grand Central Station for several charities such as the Fresh Air Fund.
It is believed that sometime during the early to mid-sixties, possibly 1964, the Lionel Corp. was a sponsor for another aid organization, “Junior Achievement”, started in 1919 as a collection of small, after-school business clubs for students in Springfield, Massachusetts.
During World War II, enterprising students in JA business clubs used their ingenuity to find new and different products for the war effort. They even obtained badly needed scrap iron by using acetylene torches in abandoned locomotive yards.
Students were taught how to think and plan for a business, acquire supplies and talent, build their own products, advertise, and sell with the financial support of companies such as The Lionel Corp.
Several groups sold savings banks made from the mold of the #6445 Fort Knox car, which was painted gold instead of silver, and mounted on a wooden base.
As a sign of things to come for collectors, of course there exists at least two variations of the corporate entity’s name of this sponsorship; “JANELCO”, which was most likely the Junior Achievement and LioNEL Company, and “JALICO” which could be Junior Achievement and LIonel Company.
LIONEL, AFTER HOURS:
No mint cars would be manufactured from the Postwar period until 1979, when #9320 came in a special box with the rest of the #1970 Southern Pacific set, headed by the #8960 SP U36C. It was painted silver over a clear plastic shell and as with its predecessor, the bullions were painted gold. The wheels on the rolling stock of this set where all die-cast and hollow if you look in the back of them, then they were zinc plated to give a shiny look, and are frequently found pitted because of the reaction with dampness. Regular wheels are made by a powder metallurgy process and these type of wheels are compressed under heat and pressure, to form a solid wheel, where the axles are coming through, the wheel is solid.
A form of “Midnight Madness” occurred by some employees at Lionel, and several of the unpainted shells made their way into collector’s hands.