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Trip Report A Short Trip to the Denver Mint

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My son's finals were done and we had a few days to kill before leaving on our Christmas vacation so I decided to try to see if we could get reservations to see the Denver Mint. We had tried previously in the summer, but most tours were booked 2 months in advance. I tried on a Thursday to see if the Friday tours were available. They were all booked, but most tours had plenty of space on the following Monday (Dec. 6).

I booked on the mint website (www.usmint.gov/mint_tours/). Monday morning we drove to Denver with plenty of time to spare. There are parking garages near the mint, but also plenty of metered parking on the street. Usually I find a place a couple of blocks away (near a bunch of bail bond establishments - the mint is near the courthouse). Although this was our first trip to the mint, we had visited the mint store several times.

We parked across the street from the mint, in front of the Post Office. Since we had plenty of time, we first went into the mint store. The store is not actually run by the mint, but by a concessionaire (much like the rooms in national parks). One problem we have experienced with the mint store in the past is its early closing time - 3:00 PM!! No problem this time as we were there at 11:15 AM. The store has two change machines - one returns 4 of the latest design quarters (Mt. Hood) for $1.00; the other gives one of the newest presidential dollars (Lincoln). We try to drop by every 2-3 months to get the latest designs.

We were let into the lobby about 25 minutes before the tour started. There is an airport style security screening, then we looked around the exhibits in the lobby. Nice exhibits on two floors. At the appointed time, a nice young lady named Stephanie started the tour. After a short video, we went to overlook where the coin blanks (planchet is the proper term) are prepared. Since it was lunchtime, nothing was going on, but Stephanie explained the process and described some other items on display. My favorite was the huge bag that coins are transported to the Federal Reserve Banks in. The dollar bag holds 140,000 coins! The coins are placed into rolls and smaller bags at the fed.

Next to the stamping room. Both one cent pieces and half dollars were being produced. They are made so fast (6 coins per second) that it is hard to see much. Since half dollars are only made for collector sets (none for general circulation), it is unusual to see them being made. The 2011 halves were being minted for the uncirculated sets.

A big room is devoted to packaging the uncirculated mint sets. Several robotic arms place the coins in the holder and after they are all set, a couple of people do quality checking. The set from the Philadelphia mint are sent to Denver for final assembly.

All this is in the 'new' part of the mint. We then passed into the older part which now houses the administrative offices. Marble floors and fancy lights and walls mark this section. As we left thru the old lobby, we saw the former guard house. In older days a guard was on duty with a Thompson submachine gun, rifle, pistol and tear gas. The lobby has several nice murals on the ceiling.

The mint staff calls this 'the best deal in town'. It is - not only is it free, but we were also given one of the latest quarters! In our case it was the Samoa quarter from 2009. Total tour time in the mint was 30 minutes.

Starting mid January, the Federal Reserve building in town will open its doors to a money museum. That will make a nice 'double header' for those interested in coins and money. I will add a trip report on that museum in this post when I tour it.

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