It’s likely that you use money every day. You carry it around in your pocket or purse. You use it to buy things that you need and things that you want. However, have you ever given much thought to where it comes from, or how it’s made?
While I visited the mint in Washington, DC as a child (back when you actually could take tours of the facility), I still often find myself taking the money in my pocket for granted. So, when I discovered that you could tour the Philadelphia Mint, I knew I had to visit.
The Philadelphia Mint is actually the nation’s first, started in 1792. The currency needs of the government continued 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.
It’s estimated that about 50% of the coins in circulation today were made at the Philadelphia Mint. If you take a look at your coins, any with a small “P” on the front were minted in Philadelphia.
Visits to the Philadelphia Mint start with a history of money making in America. Artifacts like the first coin press from 1792 are on display along with a collection of old coins. There is also a short video that explains how the concept of a US mint came to be.
The next stop on the tour is where you’ll learn how coins are made (Insider Tip: Stay to the left when you reach the top floor. It’s not very well marked).
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 you can actually look down on the factory floor below.
There are a total of five steps that are involved in the actual minting of the coins. Each step is well explained with signage explaining the process, touch screens that show you some of the highlights of the factory, and an audio explanation playing through speakers. All of these aspects complement the large windows quite well and make the process of coin making quite easy to follow.
At each step of the process, they also had a small section titled, “In the Old Days” which gives you a great explanation of how the step was completed in the early 20th century.
It’s amazing to watch the coins being made below you. Who knows, one of the coins that you see made in the Philadelphia Mint might one day be in your pocket.
Overall, I really found the Philadelphia Mint factory tour to be very interesting. Despite the tour being self-guided, I had no problem understanding each aspect of the process. I would highly recommend a visit to the Philadelphia Mint for anyone who is interested in learning more about where their money comes from or those looking for unique things to do in Philly with kids.
A Few Notes about Visiting the Philadelphia Mint:
Because of the high security, there are a few things to be aware of when visiting the Philadelphia Mint.
First, in order to enter the facility, you are required to pass through a metal detector and all adults must show a photo ID.
Second, while the security guards didn’t stop me from taking my cameras in with me, no photos are allowed inside the building, hence why there are no photos of the factory floor. Given the tight security at the mint, I would expect that this would be strictly enforced and would definitely not recommend trying to sneak a photo or two.
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3 thoughts on “Learning How Money is Made with a Visit to the Philadelphia Mint”
I visited the Phila Mint when I was about 8-9 years old. My parents drove me all the way from South Carolina where we lived to Philly just to see the Mint.. I was collecting coins and I pestered them insufferably until they couldn’t stand it any more, so they packed up the car and away we went. It still is one of my favorite childhood memories but I can assure you it was not one of my dad’s favorite memories.. We got lost in Philly’s heavy traffic and one way streets and he vowed to never return to Philadelphia and he kept that promise for the rest of his life. I want to go back sometime just for old times sake.
Great story! Thanks for sharing. You should definitely visit the Philadelphia Mint the next time you go to the city.
Another pro tip to note is that by in large if you want to see them actually making coins don’t go on Fridays especially in the summer as that is almost always a “dead day”. Also noteworthy is that several of the displays that show how the process works are narrated by late Phillies HOF announcer Harry Kalas.