How Coins are Made

Do you know what a quarter and a cookie have in common? Before they reached your piggy bank or cookie jar, they first had to be manufactured. The U.S. Mint cooked up more than 14 billion coins last year at its Philadelphia and Denver minting facilities. (That’s a lot of dough!) To find out how, read on.

The ingredients

Many different metals can be used to make coins, but some work better than others. The metal must be soft enough to work with yet strong enough to stand up to the wear and tear of thousands of transactions. Circulating coins have a life span of nearly 30 years – 20 times longer than that of a paper dollar bill.

Few metals have the right properties, so metal used in coin manufacturing is usually an alloy, or a mixture of two or more metals. Some common alloys include zinc, iron, copper, nickel or aluminum. Even gold and silver have to be alloyed with another metal to be tough enough for the job.

Putting it together

Once the alloy is created by melting and mixing the two materials together, it is poured into strips and passed several times through a rolling mill to flatten. Just like a cookie-cutter, automatic presses punch out the blank coins. Did you know that one roll of metal as long as five football fields can make up to 325,000 blank coins?

Different machines clean, polish and dry the blank coins before an edge-rolling machine smoothes the coins’ edges. The hard edges prevent soft metal from squirting out during the stamping process and make the coins easier to feed into the high-speed stamping presses.

Adding decoration

To add the design to the blank coin, two dies are needed – one for each side of the coin. A die is a piece of hard metal, like steel, with a design on its face that helps to form a mirror image on the struck coin. In a single stroke, up to four blanks are stamped with the appropriate designs and inscriptions.

Final touches

The stamped coins are then inspected, counted, bagged and shipped to the Federal Reserve Banks for distribution before they end up in your pocket or piggy bank. You can tell where your coins where made by looking to the right of the subject’s face on the “heads" side. The mint marks – “P" for Philadelphia or “D" for Denver – are found on all circulating coins with the exception of the “Philadelphia" Lincoln cent, which has no mint mark.

Cool currency conceptsNickel.jpg

1. For the first time in 65 years, the U.S. Mint is changing the design of the nickel. Two newly-designed 5-cent coins will begin circulating in the spring of 2004.

2. In 1999, the U.S. Mint began striking a new quarter every 10 weeks to honor one of the 50 states. The quarters are struck in the same order as the states' birthdays. Test yourself to see how much you know about the latest state to be released--Arkansas!

3. See for yourself how coins are made. Let Goldie the Mint Fish be your guide.

4. Have your teacher look at this lesson plan about the 50 State Quarters® Program and see if you can do the activities in your class at school.

5. You can have a lot of fun with coins besides just collecting them. Check out all the games you can play like the Coin Memory Game, Mark My Words and Puzzle Mint.
from Mindy Limback