From June 27th - July 5th I was vacationing on the east coast of the USA. While there I spent time on the New Jersey shore and visiting the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia.
Over the next few days (starting now) I will be sharing some of my travel adventures with you.
The U.S. Mint
The United States Mint in Philadelphia is the country’s first mint. Coins have been struck here since the mint’s opening in 1792. The current facility opened in 1969. This is Philadelphia’s fourth mint expansion and is located just a couple of blocks from the mint’s original location.
There are four US Mint locations. These are located in Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco and West Point.The United States Mint Agency is headquartered in Washington, DC. Aside from running the mints, this agency also oversees the US Bullion Depository at Fort Knox.
The Mint is open for FREE tours Monday - Friday, 9:00am - 4:30pm (with extended visiting hours in the summer). However, there is one drawback of visiting the mint. Photos are NOT allowed! 😭😭😭
I suppose this is to deter counterfeiting efforts? 🤔
However, the Mint did provide a lovely self guided tour brochure.
So what did I see at the mint?
When you first walk in there is a giant hall. Dark blue everything. There is a gift shop on the right. Which I was tempted to enter straight away! Instead we headed for the escalator. At the base was the self guided tour brochure.
Upon reaching the second floor (which is much higher in elevation than your standard second floor) there is a mezzanine with several coins on display. Old stuff, new stuff, medals, clad, silver and gold... there were a few of each to ogle.
From the mezzanine we proceeded down what seemed like an unending hallway. Picture something out of the X-Files or Raiders of the Lost Ark. Here we were presented with the steps to create a coin.
Did you know each new coin/style of coin minted can only be created by law?
Think of the America the Beautiful series or the quarters representing each state. The first step in making these coins was someone wrote a bill saying hey, we should have some quarters with an image of each state on the coin. Then the bill had to be approved by Congress (House of Representatives and Senate) before finally being signed into law. Who knew this was a thing?
Once a new coin idea is legislated, artists begin designing the coin’s images. Aside from the coin’s artwork, every one by law must include the words:
- In God We Trust
- United States of America
- E Pluribus Unum
The denomination and year of mintage must also be included on every coin.
Next stop on the self guided tour was die making. Dies in this case are the tools used to make coins. (The dictionary definition is: a specialized manufacturing tool used to cut or shape materials using a press.) Each die has to be precisely made so the coins they create in the end are exactly the same.
Here is the part of the tour where we got to look onto the manufacturing floor to see machines working and millions of would be coins on the move. But of course THE MACHINES WEREN’T ON! 😭 So what is blanking? During this portion of the process long strips of copper and nickel are fed through a giant press. Then discs are cut out of the metal (like cookies). These discs are smooth but will eventually become coins. Think of the “blanks” as coins that don’t have a design on them yet.
Annealing and Upsetting
In this phase of coin manufacture, the blanks are heated. This softens them enough to have an image pressed into the blank. The blanks are also tumbled which gives each one an edge. Without the rim made during the tumbling process (upsetting) you wouldn’t be able to stack your coins.
Now that the blanks (renamed planchets after annealing and upsetting) are toasty warm, it is time to add images to each side. The steel dies from earlier are placed into a machine. There is one die with “head” image and one die with the “tail” image. Then the planchets move on a conveyor belt where the heads and tails images are pressed into the metal with one strike. In this moment new coins are born. ☺️ 💰
After the coins are struck, inspectors closely examine selected coins to ensure no flaws are present. If a flaw is found on a single coin the entire batch is destroyed! The mangled metal is recycled and put to other uses later.
Once the coins pass inspection they are individually counted and placed in large bags. The bags are then weighed to reconfirm the coin count. These bags are stored in vaults until being shipped to federal reserve banks nationwide. The Fed banks later distribute coins to your local bank.
Medals and Commemorative Coins
Aside from creating circulating coins, the mint also produces medals and commemorative coins. Medals are struck to honor the achievements of individuals or to honor great events. Commemorative coins honor great people, places and events. These are often struck in valuable metals such as silver or gold.
With the tour complete it was time to visit the GIFT SHOP!
I love tourist trinket gift shops, and this one did not disappoint! The shopping was extra fun because I also collect coins! Let me show you the goodies I purchased. 😃