Where’d that Quarter come from?

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Toby is a coin collector and has been since he was a child. It is a hobby he shared with his father and a hobby that has continued his entire life. It is a hobby that pairs well with another favorite hobby of his: metal detecting. I love that he is so passionate and knowledgeable about something that brings him such joy,

And despite my complete lack of knowledge about currency, I enjoy learning from him as he shares his knowledge with such enthusiasm.

While we were in Philadelphia for our two day anniversary trip we decided to make one of our stops the Philadelphia Mint. Located in the heart of Philadelphia, this mint is one of five money-making factories in the United States and the top producer of the coins that jingle in your pocket.

Just pull out a handful of change and every coin marked with a “P” or not marked with a letter at all (this tradition is a nod to when the Philadelphia Mint was the nation’s only mint) was produced at the Philadelphia Mint.

It’s estimated that about 50% of the coins in circulation today were made at the Philadelphia Mint. 

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The Philadelphia Mint is actually the nation’s first, started in 1792. The currency needs of the government continues to increase, and the mint has outgrown three buildings throughout its years. The current Philadelphia Mint building has been in use since 1969.

The Philadelphia Mint mints all coin denominations in use in America as well as many of the medals that the government hands out each year (think Congressional Medals of Honor, Presidential medals, etc.). The mint is capable of making upwards of 1 million coins every 30 minutes. By contrast, it would have taken the first Philadelphia Mint three years to create that many coins.

We arrived at the mint already knowledgeable to the rules and procedures of this government building having spent some time on their website. Due to the sensitive nature of the product produced inside, visitors are restricted from taking photographs.

We were able to nab a few photos outside the building before walking in.

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Guests are guided through security before being set up the escalator to the second floor where the FREE tour begins.

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We began our visit by learning the history of money making in America. Artifacts like the first coin press from 1792 were on display, along with a collection of old coins. There was also a short video that explained how the concept of a US mint came to be. By riding the escalator to the third floor we were guided to the next stop on the tour where guests are guided through the process of how coins are made.

The process of making a coin actually starts with Congress, who has to pass legislation for a new design or denomination. Once the bill has gone through Congress and the President has signed it, the process of making the coin really starts.

The Philadelphia Mint is home to the artists who actually figure out what the coins will look like. This can be quite a long process, with several variations made and many suggestions offered. Eventually though, a new design is settled upon and the process of making the coin can start.

This is also where the tour of the Philadelphia Mint gets really interesting because guests can actually look down on the factory floor below and watch the minting process.

On our self-guided walking tour we learned more about the five steps that are involved in the actual minting of the coins: die making, blanking, annealing and upsetting, striking, and inspecting/bagging. Each step was well explained with signage explaining the process, touch screens that showed us the of the highlights of the factory, and an audio explanation that played through speakers.

It was pretty amazing watching the coins being made below us. It was crazy to think that one of the coins we were watching be made may someday find its way into our pocket or change purse.

Both Toby and I found the Philadelphia Mint factory tour to be very interesting. It felt to me like we were walking through an episode of Discovery channel’s “How it’s Made.” Despite the tour being self-guided, we had no problem understanding each aspect of the process.  We both would highly recommend a visit to the Philadelphia Mint for anyone who collects coins or is simply interested in learning more about where their money comes from.

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