Thursday, February 1, 2007

U.S. Mint Field Trip

The Mint was fascinating. They actually did give us coins! One quarter each of never circulated coins - I got Oregon, SnugBug got Texas, and Punkin got South Dakota. They released the Montana coins into circulation yesterday and 2 lucky people in our group got one of those.

You can take a virtual tour of the Mint online, if you want to. Here are some little tidbits I learned today:
  • Today was the 101st anniversary of the Denver mint.
  • The penny blanks are manufactured in Greenville, TN.
  • The other blanks are manufactured onsite from big metal rolls - there is basically a big cookie cutter machine. The left-overs and any coins not perfect enough for circulation are "waffled" and sent back to the manufacturer to be melted down and recycled into new big metal rolls.
  • They are still hoping dollar coins catch on because they last 20-30 years instead of 18 months like the paper dollars
  • They make 13 million gold dollar coins a DAY
  • Pennies make up about half of what they mint because people put them in jars instead of spending them.
  • Pennies minted in Philadelphia do not have a "P" on them. Pennies were the first coins minted and the "P" was not necessary at the time since Philadelphia was the first mint. The no "P" is a continuation of the tradition.
  • One machine can make 12 pennies a second!
  • They have to change the "die" (or stamp) at least once a day for the pennies, and 2 or 3 times a day for the other coins
  • The nickel metal composition is so hard that they have to soften the blanks before stamping or it will break the die
  • About 1/4 of the U.S. gold buillion is stored in Denver, and Denver is the only gold storage area that allows public tours.
  • There is a little window in between the stairs of the main entrance that a guard used to sit with a machine gun, a rifle, a pistol and tear gas. It was so hot in the booth the guards would fall asleep, so they took turns serving 1 hour shifts. The booth was used until the 1960s.
  • The original part of the mint building was the second building in Denver to have electric lights (the 1st was the Capitol). The light fixtures in the hallways and foyer are original.
  • The U.S. mint has minted coins for 42 other countries.
  • The coins are distributed by unmarked tractor trailer trucks. However, if you plan to rob one - bring a forklift. (Hey - that's what our tour guide said!) The bags of coins weigh almost a ton each.

The kids seemed to have a good time. The tour was kid-friendly and they behaved nicely. (PTL!) SnugBug was fascinated by the big machines, and Punkin was fascinated by the pictures of all the state quarter designs. She took the quarters they gave us and found the matches of the designs posted on the wall. She also said that she was surprised there were so many police officers around - I don't think she really grasps how fast that change can add up! It is amazing to me too. They had a tall jar of nickels in the entry lobby area - over $4000 worth of nickels!

1 comment:

Momma Roar said...

How truly fascinating! I learned a lot along with you :) I can't wait to take a field trip to the Philly mint with Q next year when we do vol 1! I am so glad you documented your trip for us! We'll have to check back to your notes next year!