That was one of the reasons behind the Mint's recently revamped tour. This summer, the Mint reopened after an extensive $3.9 million makeover. Budgeted over several years, the project was the first tour remodel in about four decades. "We just weren't telling our story correctly," said Tim Grant, public affairs manager at the Mint.
That story is a compelling one. The largest of the country's four mints - and the largest in the world - the Philadelphia branch makes circulating coins of all denominations, commemorative coins that are authorized by Congress and the dies for stamping coins and medals. It also employs an elite group of sculptor/engravers responsible for creating the models for the production of all U.S. coins and medals.
The facility itself also has some cool features, the most conspicuous of which are seven glass mosaics designed by Tiffany & Co. to show the origins of the coinage process in Roman times. Considered to be national treasures, they were created for $40,000 in 1900. When the mosaics were moved from the Mint's previous facility on Spring Garden Street (now the Community College of Philadelphia) to the current Mint building in 1971, they were appraised at $420,000, said Grant.
Through the tour, visitors learn not just about the history of the Mint, but about the history of coining and producing money. On the first floor, with famous quotes about money - "a penny saved is a penny earned," etc. - flashing across a wall, visitors can examine the Mint's collection of artifacts accumulated over the last two centuries. One such item is Peter the Mint Eagle, a stuffed bald eagle from the first Philadelphia Mint location.
The real star of the Mint isn't the collection, though. It's the ability to get up close and personal with the actual process of making money. From viewing areas 30 feet about the Mint floor, visitors can observe the multistep process it takes to produce a coin.
And it's a lot of coins. Today, the Mint is capable of producing 12 coins per second, or about 50 million coins per day (though it actually only produces about half that). "A lot of this tour changed because we have this great story to tell," said Grant. "We make something very important in here . . . It's [now] the perfect place to show off what we do."
The Mint is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. All tours are self-guided and free.