A Dave's Collectible Coins Article

How Coins are Made

Almost as fascinating and interesting as the coins themselves is the process with which coins are made. The United States Mint has been making coins for currency for two centuries. The Mint has been in operation since 1792, and has been supplying our country with coin currency for the duration. There is a specific process for minting our coins, and though the tools used and some of the techniques applied have changed, the basic process for making coins has stayed the same.

The U.S. Mint and its Process

The First U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. Photo from U.S. Coin Database

The U.S. Mint has been one of the most stable and lasting institutions in the United States. The Mint has been a hallmark of the United States, and has given the nation steady and consistent service for two-hundred and twenty-five years now. Detailed below is a glimpse at the process that the Mint uses when making their coins:

  1. The coin making process begins with the collection of metals and other materials for the coins. The metals are raw when first received and require further handling before they can be used.
  2. Impurities in the metal must be removed. This process is referred to as refining. After refined, the metal is melted. It’s at this point that different metals are alloyed. After the purity of metal and alloy are achieved, the metal is formed into a brick shape. These bricks are called “ingots”. Per the U.S. Mint, an ingot is:” Metal cast into a particular shape; used in making coins”.

    Stacked Ingots. Photo by Wikimedia
  3. The ingots are rolled out into long metal sheets by rolling them between two hardened steel rollers. This process is called “rolling”. The metal is rolled until it is the proper thickness. One of these rolls of metal is as long as five football fields.

    Sheets of pressed metal, with ingots beside. Photo by Wikimedia
  4. The next step is called “blanking”. In this step, blank disks are punched from the coiled metal sheets. These blank metal disks are called “blanks” or “planchets”. From one of these sheets 325,000 planchets can be made.

    A Planchet (also called a Blank). Photo by Wikimedia
  5. Annealing is the next step. This process involves heating the blanks to soften them up and also washing and drying them too.

    San Francisco Annealing Furnace. Photo by CoinNews.net
  6. After being heated, the planchets are washed and cooled.
  7. The next step is to put the coins through the Upsetting process. This takes the blanks (all except the cent) and runs them through an upsetting mill. This raises a rim around the edges of the coin.
    Photo by U.S. Mint

    Photo by Wikimedia
  8. Striking is the next step that is probably most often thought of when one thinks of coin making. In this step, the coins are literally stamped between two huge presses, and this process gives the coin the inscriptions and designs that make it unique to the United States.
    Dies used for striking the coin

    Photo from U.S. Mint
  9. Inspecting is the next step. In this step, press operators actually physically inspect each and every set of coins with a magnifying glass to ensure that it meets the standards that the Mint holds it to. A Herculean effort indeed, but according to the U.S. Mint’s article on coin production, they take their inspections quite seriously. The article can be found here.
  10. The next step is to get the coins ready for shipping. The U.S. Mint uses an automatic counting machine that counts up all of the coins and drops them into large bags for shipment. Fork lifts move the pallets of sealed bags to vaults on site at the Mint for storage until they are needed and called upon. Trucks take new coins to Federal Reserve Banks, then to local banks to be put into circulation.

If you would like to see all of these activities in motion, this YouTube video shows the processes in detail.

The entire process to make a coin might at first sound difficult and time consuming, but it is not. Remember, the U.S. Mint has been in operation for over two-hundred years, and they have streamlined a process that is quite easy to follow along with and is quite effective and beneficial. The process for making coins does involve multiple different steps but it is not a complicated or all too confusing system. The U.S. Mint is able to churn out millions of coins every day, and if an area of the process breaks down such as a press becoming dysfunctional or an annealing oven going out of commission, the Mint has backups to use in such an instance.

More information about the U.S. Mint can be found here.

More Than Just Coins

Knowing the history of how our coins are made is a part of the fun for coin collectors. Coin collecting isn’t just about the coins themselves; it’s something more than that. Here-in lies a hobby that embodies history and American culture. There is more meaning to it than simply acquiring the coins themselves. The feeling and the purpose behind coin collecting embodies a deep-seated enjoyment for the coins themselves, the history of the United States, and the culture of our people.

References:

US Mint – Coin Term Glossary
https://www.usmint.gov/learn/collecting-basics/glossary

US Mint – Coin Production
https://www.usmint.gov/learn/history/coin-production

US Mint – How Coins Are Made …For Kids (video)
https://www.usmint.gov/learn/kids/videos

The Spruce Crafts – How Are Coins Made?
https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/how-are-coins-made-4589253

CoinNews.net – U.S. Mint at San Francisco, Preparing Coin Blanks
https://www.coinnews.net/2013/04/03/u-s-mint-at-san-francisco-preparing-coin-blanks/

YouTube – Making money at the mint in Philadelphia
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S56xjC4WCg

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