Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Denver Mint, Denver, Colorado

  • Have you ever wondered where US coins are made? 
  • Or how the quarters you dropped into a soda machine are made to be consistently the same?
  • Or why does the US government have to constantly make coins? 
  • Do you know where a third of the US gold reserves are located? 
  • Has the US Mint ever made foreign coins? 
  • What is the oldest federal police force? 
Well we learned to the answers to all these questions and more on the tour of the Denver Mint today. The 30 minute tour starts by a brief security orientation given by one of the US Mint Police officers. Each person goes through a metal detector and passes their metal objects (keys, coins, phones etc.) through an x-ray type machine. This is much like the security check points at airports but we were told their equipment was much more sensitive. After passing through security, we all waited in a small foyer that had interesting information displays about coins and the Mint. 

Once all the people were checked in, we proceeded upstairs and watched a short video that provided a high level overview of the US Mints history and their function in our country. The tour guide then led us into an observation room where we could watch the coin stamping machines actually make thousands of US coins. The Guide explained the entire manufacturing process from how the dies are made that are used to stamp out a particular coin, quality control checks and balances, and the one failed attempt by an employee to steal (back in 1920), and about the building’s construction. Next we were led to another observation room where uncirculated Sets are made. Unfortunately the machines weren’t running that day. Lastly we were led out of the main entrance of the building. 

During the tour, the Guide answered any question that people had about the Mint or the coin manufacturing process in general. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and provided a very enthusiastic, informative, and fun tour. Even the armed police officers that accompanied the group answered questions and were very nice. Even though the tour was 30 minutes long, it was an informative and interesting experience that most people would enjoy. 

Oh, were you wondering about the answers to the questions? 
  • US coins are made are made in Denver & Philadelphia. 
  • Quarters you dropped into a soda machine are made to be consistently the same by sampling a few coins every 10-15 minutes – if one coin doesn’t meet standards, then the whole batch is destroyed and the metal re-used in the next batch. 
  • The US government has to constantly make coins because they are needed for commerce and people tend to collect and hoard coins for a variety of reasons. 
  • A third of the US gold reserves are located in the basements of the Denver Mint. 
  • The US Mint made foreign coins for many years, for countries such as Mexico, China, Israel, etc…..
  • The oldest federal police force is the police force of the US Mint.

Finally, what was most interesting, is that the US Mint is a business onto itself – it makes a profit on making coins.

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