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Philadelphia Mint Tour
by Michael Zielinski

On Monday, I had the opportunity to visit the Philadelphia Mint. It's something that I have wanted to do for some time. Since my wife had to travel to Pennsylvania this week, we decided to make the drive a day early to visit the Mint. We went with her parents and our 9 month old son.

My first impression was the immense size of the facility. The building actually takes up the entire block. It is mostly windowless and looks like a very secure fortress. We circled the building once by car, and then parked at a nearby parking garage. The Philadelphia Mint does not provide parking.

Before we could enter the building, we had to show a government issued picture ID and pass through a metal detector. The guards were strict about not allowing any cameras into the building. Anyone considering a tour, should read this US Mint page beforehand. In addition to cameras, there is a long list of prohibited objects including "pens." These items are not even allowed in the building, so be sure to leave them in your car.

The tour is self guided, with a few televisions placed at various stations to provide video. The tour takes place through several corridors. The main corridor seems run the length of the entire building and overlooks the production floor through plate glass windows.

The production floor below was packed with machinery. Most of the processes seem highly automated. When we took the tour there didn't seem to be much coin producing activity taking place. We may have taken the tour during a slow period. We saw less than ten Mint workers below, which might have been due to the high automation of the process or the lack of coin production.

Before and after the main corridor were various displays, which included medals, commemorative coins, historic US Mint equipment, and copies of some historic documents. The coin displays were put together at least a few years ago (perhaps 2002) and didn't include recent issues. We took the tour at a leisurely pace and it took less than an hour.

After the tour, we visited the Philadelphia Mint Gift Shop. They sold various coin themed or Mint branded items, coin jewelry, and some of the familiar US Mint coin products. This included Mint Sets, Proof Sets, Gold Eagles, Silver Eagles, and the Gold Buffalo Celebration coin. (Unfortunately there were no 2008 Proof Sets on sale!) Most of the products for sale are currently available online, with the exception of the 2007 Annual Uncirculated Dollar Set, the 2007 Commemoratives, and the 2008 Bald Eagle Half Dollar Commemorative.

A machine in the lobby was available to change bills for new quarters or dollar coins. The quarters dispensed were 2008 Hawaii Quarters. The dollar coins dispensed were the new 2009 Native American Dollars. This is the earliest I have ever had a current year dated coin in hand.

First impression of the coin, the obverse and reverse almost seem mismatched. The style of the image and lettering differ on each side, making it seem more like two different coins than two sides of the same. The obverse looks curious and unbalanced without the date on the right side. It's a big blank area where I have become accustomed to seeing the date as part of the Sacagawea design.

Another observation, the style of the edge lettering looks very different than the edge lettering I have seen on 2007 and 2008 Presidential Dollars. The lettering is thinner, closer together, and incused less deeply. The lettering is impressed so shallow and thin that I am wondering whether coins which experience circulation might quickly become dateless.

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