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
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.