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An 1883 letter from Chief of the Secret Service, James J. Brooks, to Superintendent of the Mint, A. Loudon Snowden, mentions government “operatives” and “inquiries set afoot.” Even though it sounds like an excerpt from a Sherlock Holmes novel, this National Archives correspondence, recently transcribed by the Newman Portal, discusses the possibility of the U.S. Mint striking coins for the country of Bolivia. The Mint was authorized to produce coins for foreign countries as specified by an Act of Congress approved on January 29, 1874. However, the correspondence raises questions about the authenticity of Bolivia’s petition and Brooks requests of Snowden that “no action be taken…as to the preparation of dies for the coining of Bolivian money.”
Sixty years later, the outcome was much different when Bolivia was one of more than 20 countries for which the United States produced coins during World War II. Due to the global economic challenges brought on by this War, many countries were unable to make their own coins and the United States helped them maintain their monetary systems. During the War, these foreign coins were produced at cost and did not yield any profit for the Mint. Between July 1, 1942 and June 30, 1944, they produced 30 million Bolivian coins, evenly divided among the denominations of 10, 20, and 50 centavos.Link to 3 pieces of correspondence regarding Bolivian coins: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/599780