My sons have always been interested in money. Not only saving money, but also how money is manufactured and distributed. I have memories of looking at U.S. paper money and seeing the Federal Reserve Seal. The letter ties in with a location, with “A” being Boston, Massachusetts in the northeast and “L” signifying San Francisco in the west. When I was a kid, most of the dollars circulating in my part of the country had an “E” for Richmond, Virginia.
We enjoyed the trip to the American Numismatic Museum in May where we learned all about the history of money and coin collecting.
Getting to the U.S. Mint in Denver is much more difficult. Not only is it farther away, but the word on the street was that we needed 90 day advance reservations. So not long after moving here in June 2013 I hopped online at the U.S. Mint’s website to try to get a reservation. It always seemed to be filled on the days that our family was available to visit. I got on the website in October to try to get reservations for the holidays, but the mint was closed to tours during the holidays.
I grabbed a reservation for early June and declared that our family would visit the mint that day. I reserved extra tickets for our friend’s family also.
We visited the mint a couple days after the boys’ school was out. The website gave guidance to arrive 30 minutes early to allow time to clear security.
So we did that. And we ended up waiting in line in the June sunshine for 25 of the 30 minutes. And found out several guests in our tour group didn’t make reservations! They were visiting Denver for other reasons and decided to just see if there were openings. And there were…sigh.
When we were allowed to enter, we had to pass through a pretty elaborate security setup. While there are no full body scanners, they’re still pretty detailed. No purses were allowed, so many guests had to find a place for their purses, either back at their cars or…well…I don’t know where. There wasn’t a place up front to keep it. Cell phones had to be turned off, along with cameras. Dave’s pins in his back set off the metal detector machine, which doesn’t even happen at airports!
The tour itself isn’t very long, which makes this not unreasonable for children (if they’re patient with the wait to enter and the security procedures.) You get to see rooms where coins are being minted, but this current generation of machinery is more modern and you don’t see much action at all. Stamping the coins is accomplished in a closed-off machine, so you merely see blanks enter…and completed stamped coins exit.
There were areas cordoned off with signs indicating machines that would be producing special commemorative coins. While pennies and quarters are minted routinely at the Denver Mint, other commemorative coins go into and out of production periodically. You can learn more about the schedule here. They were pretty excited about getting to mint the Colorado contribution to the National Parks quarters series commemorating the Great Sand Dunes National Park this coming August.
After seeing the coin production area, we toured the original building, which opened in 1904. Modeled after a Florentine Palace, the architecture and accoutrements are gorgeous. We had a conversation with our tour guide about how taxpayers wouldn’t stand for such adornments today.
The entire tour lasted around an hour. We ended our tour near a souvenir shop, which offered your typical touristy things like coffee mugs and pens.
So what do I think? I think it was a lot of hassle for a pretty short tour to visit a bunch of boxes in which coin minting is occurring. I recommend just trying to see if you can grab a tour without a reservation if you’re otherwise in Denver for other sightseeing. This is not a main attraction.