The United States Mint is the largest coin manufacturing organization in the world, operating from only two locations – Philadelphia and Denver. The Mint at Denver currently manufactures all denominations of circulating coins, coin dies, the Denver “D” portion of the annual uncirculated coin sets, and commemorative coins authorized by the U. S. Congress. It also stores gold and silver bullion.
When the framers of the U.S. Constitution created a new government for their untried Republic, they realized the critical need for a respected monetary system. In 1792, Congress passed The Coinage Act, which created the Mint and authorized construction of a Mint building in the nation’s capital, Philadelphia. This was the first federal building erected under the Constitution.
It delivered its first circulating coins the next year – 11,178 copper cents. Soon after, the Mint began issuing gold and silver coins as well. President Washington, who lived only a few blocks from the new Mint, donated some of his own silver for minting.
The 1858 discovery of gold in Colorado lured hundreds of merchants, miners, and settlers. The City of Denver was formed a year later and within four years the U.S. Government established a mint facility here. For its first 46 years, the United States Mint at Denver was only an assay office in the Clark, Gruber and Company Bank Building. Miners brought in gold dust and nuggets to be melted, assayed and cast into bars stamped with their weight and quality. By 1895, the Assay Office was booming, bringing in more than $5.6 million in gold and silver deposits annually.
In 1904, the government decided to convert the Assay Office into a working mint, and modeled its Italian Renaissance style building after a Florentine palace. Two years later, during its first year in operation, the new Mint produced 167,371,035 gold and silver coins valued at $27 million. Today, the Denver Mint’s output can exceed 50 million coins a day.
The process by which the Mint makes coins has advanced significantly since 1792. The first Philadelphia Mint used harnessed horses to drive the crude machinery that produced our coinage. The manual process required heating of metals in a blacksmith-like furnace, and flattening them into sheets by repeated trips through rollers. Coin shapes were then punched out of the metal sheets, and these were hand-fed into machines that stamped on coin faces. The coin making process was physical and tedious, producing many imperfect coins.
The current Philadelphia and Denver Mints, using a highly-automated version of the same basic steps used in 1792, often produce millions of coins for circulation in 24 hours. The two facilities together have produced as many as 28 billion coins in a single year.
By law, in 1792 American money was made of gold, silver, and copper in denominations of $10, $5 and $2.50 pieces. The dollar, half-dollar, quarter, dime and half-dime were composed of silver. The cent and half-cent were made of copper.
It was not until 1933, during the Great Depression, that the Mint ceased producing gold coins. A silver crisis caused the replacement of silver in 1966 in quarters and dimes; however, the half-dollar was composed of 40 percent silver from 1965 to 1970. The Bicentennial Kennedy Half Dollar contained 80 percent silver and 20 percent copper. Now these coins are produced with a pure copper core, and an outer layer of a 75% copper/25% nickel alloy. Nickels are made from the same 75-25 alloy. The cent, a copper coin until 1982, is now composed of copper-plated zinc.
Join Nederland Area Seniors on our tour of the Denver Mint after lunch at Pints Pub (the British pub) on Tuesday, November 19. We will enjoy special exhibits, artifacts from the United States Mint’s early days, and up-close views of the coin-making process. Via will provide the comfort of a group van and driver if at least ten people sign up (maximum 14) by Monday, November 11. Depart 11 a.m.; return by 5 p.m. Free – bring lunch money. All local residents over the age of 60 are welcome. Call us at 303-258-0799 now to reserve your seat.
Everyone is invited to the Nederland Area Seniors luncheon at the Nederland Community Center at noon. A donation of $4 is requested from those over 60 years of age and $8.25 all others, but no seniors are turned away due to inability to pay. Please make reservations by 4 p.m. Friday for Monday lunch and 4 p.m. Monday for Wednesday lunch, at 303-258-0799.
Monday, November 11: Crunchy Baked Fish, Vegetables, Potatoes O’Brien / Roll, Orange
Wednesday, November 13: Pasta with Sausage and Peppers, Green Beans, Garlic Bread, Apple