How a Coin Gets Made

Come along with us as we embark on a journey to explore the making of a coin

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

We use coins on a regular basis, yet few people stop to think about where they actually come from or how they’re made.

Modern coin-making is a much more complex and technical process than it was 200 years ago. In 1792, when the U.S. Mint’s first facility opened up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, workers used horses and oxen to power the machinery that produced the coins. In 1833, the steam-powered coin press was invented, which revolutionized the coin-making industry and was then adopted in by the U.S. Mint in 1836.

Nowadays, though, the days of horse-powered machinery and steam engines are well in the past. Today’s coin production process involves a skilled team of experts, several high-tech machines, and this 6-step manufacturing process:

  1. Blanking

The Mint purchases coiled strips of metal that measure close to 13 inches wide and 1,500 feet long. The coil is fed through a blanking press, which punches out circular discs known as blanks. The leftover material from this process, called the “webbing,” is recycled.

  1. Annealing

The blanks are softened with heat from an annealing furnace. Then, they are washed and dried thoroughly.

  1. Upsetting

The shiny clean blanks are sorted by a device called a “riddler” to make sure any coins that are the misshapen or warped are removed, and then sent to the upsetting mill. The upsetting mill is responsible for giving coins a raised rim along their edges.

  1. Striking

At last, the coins reach the coining press, where they’re stamped with the designs and inscriptions to make them authentic U.S. coins.

  1. Inspecting

After the coins have been stamped, the press operators examine each new batch closely with a magnifying glass to try and spot any misshapen or damaged ones. Finally, a coin sizer removes any bad coins the inspectors missed.

  1. Counting and Bagging

An automatic coin counting machine distributes the correct number of coins into large canvas bags, and the bags are put on pallets and moved into storage vaults until they are ready to be delivered to a Federal Reserve Bank.

Continue Learning about Coin-Making…

Watch this video to see how coins are made at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, the largest mint in the world. Also, check out this virtual tour of the modern coin-making process for insider’s look at the design process, from start to finish.

Fun Coin Facts

    • Nickels, dimes, and quarters are pickled before they’re minted. That’s right, pickled! Though it sounds weird, the blanks used to make these coins are soaked in a special chemical solution that washes and polishes the surface.

    • Before machines were used to make coins – back when they still used human and horse-power – coins were not perfectly round. They also didn’t have reeded edges like today’s coins.

    • The life expectancy of a coin is 30 years. In contrast, a dollar bill usually only makes it 18 months. Now you can see why coins are so valuable!

    • The inscription “E Pluribus Unum,” found on many U.S. coins, is Latin for “One from Many” (as in one country made from many states).

  • The purpose of reeded (grooved) edges of coins were so that no one would try to file off, or clip, the edges in order to steal the metal.

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