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Thoughts from my recent visit to the Philadelphia Mint

BryceMBryceM Posts: 11,735 ✭✭✭✭✭

My daughter and her family recently moved to Philadelphia, which, of course, necessitates trips to see the grandkids. We made the first trip a couple of weeks ago. Having never been there before we did the usual tourist visits to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. The mint is just down the street so we stopped by.

I'm sure most of you are acquainted with the format of the tour. It's self-guided and they've constructed walkways along the ceiling of the facility with windows and posters & videos to explain the process. They have a number of coin exhibits, artifacts from the early mint including the first screw-press, a reduction machine, and so forth.

Being familiar with the process and having visited the Denver mint previously, none of it was terribly new or revelatory to me, I thought the experience was well done and it was fun to see the medallic presses and such. Also interesting was the almost complete lack of visitors on a warm Saturday afternoon. Those who were there, including my daughter and son-in-law were nearly perfectly apathetic about the process. They didn't say it, but the general consensus was "Oh look, coins. How anachronistic and quaint." They did notice the hockey-puck commems and found them to be preposterous.

It seemed quite silly to watch untold quantities of copper-coated zinc planchets go through an expensive process that nobody wants and nobody needs. What was once an absolutely essential medium of exchange has fallen quite far in the lives of day-to-day folks. My daughter did comment that people around Philly used coins much more than we tend to in the rural Wester US, for bus fares and such.

Some of this is somewhat unique to the US. In England and the rest of Europe, coins are a much larger part of day to day commerce. To some extent, at least, they have re-valuated their coinage to keep pace with inflation and ours has been largely static for eons. Even without the trend to electronic transactions, inflation alone will render even half-dollars irrelevant within another decade or two. People alive today remember when a decent meal could be had for a quarter. Today, an entire $25 box of cents isn't enough to pay for a sit-down meal at a cheap restaurant.

Your thoughts?

Comments

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    TomthemailcarrierTomthemailcarrier Posts: 636 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I visited the Philadelphia mint a few years back and my biggest takeaway was how few people that it took to produce so many coins. Highly automated process in place there. I saw the same thing when I went on a tour of Celestial Seasonings in Boulder, Colorado. It brings home to me one reason that there are so few manufacturing jobs today.

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    milbrocomilbroco Posts: 2,709 ✭✭✭

    First Off - As a life long resident of Philadelphia, I welcome your family to this wonderful city. I actually now live just 1 town north of the city in Bensalem. As kids in the 1960's, I remember my parents and grandparents taking us on the tour. I remember looking through the windows and waving to to workers. Some noticed and waved back. I really liked the tour but I am sure it has changed. I have not been there in about 40 years but am thinking of going back.
    Bob

    ebay seller name milbroco
    email bcmiller7@comcast.net
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    skier07skier07 Posts: 3,697 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I think most non coin people and probably coin people are going to get bored at the mint after 10 or 15 minutes regardless of what happens to our coinage. I was at the Coors brewery recently and if were not for free samples of beer after the tour I probably would have left.

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    coinbufcoinbuf Posts: 10,769 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I've never been to the Philly mint but went to the Denver mint in 2019. It was a guided tour at that time, maybe not now, and 30 or 40 guests on the day/time I was there. I enjoyed the displays where you entered and began the tour, some interesting bits of history and artifacts. I agree that the tour of the mint operations floor was somewhat boring as there is so little to see with the process mostly automated. I enjoyed the tour but would not be in any hurry to repeat.

    Unlike you, and as a Lincoln collector, I am very happy that cents are still a part of our coinage. I disagree with those who think we would be better off without them, the argument I always hear is that money is being wasted. I have no doubt that our government would find something just as useless to waste those funds on if we stopped making smaller denomination coins. Hope you enjoyed your time with family, that is the most important part of any family get together.

    My Lincoln Registry
    My Collection of Old Holders

    Never a slave to one plastic brand will I ever be.
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    1Bufffan1Bufffan Posts: 620 ✭✭✭

    The "Younger" generation in my family only think of a debit card they never carry cash anymore, it's that or have a link on their phone, I don't trust using as much as they do. I used to find change on my walks around town but lately have found nothing not even runover cents so others must be doing the same.

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    erscoloerscolo Posts: 498 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I have not been to a mint since 1983, when I toured the mint here in Denver. Nevertheless it was an enjoyable tour, and I picked up two of the 1983 souvenir sets. I continue to find cents, nickels, dimes and the occasional quarter in parking lots and the like. I am one not in favor of scrapping low denomination coins. If that were the "only" so called government waste, we would really be in excellent shape as a country and people.

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    TurtleCatTurtleCat Posts: 4,594 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I have always wanted to go on a tour of the mint but just haven’t had the opportunity at the time when I had availability. I suppose to most people it is just seeing machinery in motion. No real emotional or other connection. It probably appeals more to the same type of people who watched “How It’s Made” or “Modern Marvels” back in the day.

    What would help coinage is to eliminate the lower denomination paper money and replace with coins. Remove the $1-$20 bills and replace with $1, $2, $5, $10, and $20 coins. Then drop the 1c to 25c IMO. Resize the half and current $1 and coinage would be more relevant for the near future.

    Won’t happen, though. Even 100 years ago people preferred paper to coinage.

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    CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 31,563 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Back when I worked for the ANA we used to get to take Summer Seminar students on the floor of the Denver Mint, sometimes with the presses and other machinery running. It was exciting. I had a VIP floor tour of the Philadelphia Mint back in 2009 for a magazine article I was writing.

    I recently took a regular public tour of the Denver Mint up on the catwalk. The historical exhibits up there were great. However, the modern coin presses are all enclosed in metal boxes to reduce noise, and there is no sense of what is going on down there. Go for the exhibits, but don't expect to see much about how coins are made.

    The cent is obsolete. It could be eliminated, like they did up in Canada, in a minute if the two political parties could just meet and say "Let's do this." However, neither one can do it alone because the other would scream "YOU'RE CAUSING INFLATION," and so nothing happens.

    Numismatist. 50 year member ANA. Winner of four ANA Heath Literary Awards; three Wayte and Olga Raymond Literary Awards; Numismatist of the Year Award 2009, and Lifetime Achievement Award 2020. Winner numerous NLG Literary Awards.
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    MasonGMasonG Posts: 6,268 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @coinbuf said:
    I disagree with those who think we would be better off without them, the argument I always hear is that money is being wasted. I have no doubt that our government would find something just as useless to waste those funds on if we stopped making smaller denomination coins.

    There are over 300 million people in the country. If everybody gets to pick something to waste money on because they happen to like it, it'll add up real fast.

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    coinbufcoinbuf Posts: 10,769 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @MasonG said:

    @coinbuf said:
    I disagree with those who think we would be better off without them, the argument I always hear is that money is being wasted. I have no doubt that our government would find something just as useless to waste those funds on if we stopped making smaller denomination coins.

    There are over 300 million people in the country. If everybody gets to pick something to waste money on because they happen to like it, it'll add up real fast.

    Uh so what is your point??

    My Lincoln Registry
    My Collection of Old Holders

    Never a slave to one plastic brand will I ever be.
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    MasonGMasonG Posts: 6,268 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @coinbuf said:

    @MasonG said:

    @coinbuf said:
    I disagree with those who think we would be better off without them, the argument I always hear is that money is being wasted. I have no doubt that our government would find something just as useless to waste those funds on if we stopped making smaller denomination coins.

    There are over 300 million people in the country. If everybody gets to pick something to waste money on because they happen to like it, it'll add up real fast.

    Uh so what is your point??

    That wasting money because you like what that wasted money is providing is not a good reason for wasting money.

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    coinbufcoinbuf Posts: 10,769 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @MasonG said:

    @coinbuf said:

    @MasonG said:

    @coinbuf said:
    I disagree with those who think we would be better off without them, the argument I always hear is that money is being wasted. I have no doubt that our government would find something just as useless to waste those funds on if we stopped making smaller denomination coins.

    There are over 300 million people in the country. If everybody gets to pick something to waste money on because they happen to like it, it'll add up real fast.

    Uh so what is your point??

    That wasting money because you like what that wasted money is providing is not a good reason for wasting money.

    Uh ok l, still don't see how your comment has any relevance to the discussion or what I said but sure you go with that. :D

    My Lincoln Registry
    My Collection of Old Holders

    Never a slave to one plastic brand will I ever be.
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    MasonGMasonG Posts: 6,268 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @coinbuf said:

    @MasonG said:

    @coinbuf said:

    @MasonG said:

    @coinbuf said:
    I disagree with those who think we would be better off without them, the argument I always hear is that money is being wasted. I have no doubt that our government would find something just as useless to waste those funds on if we stopped making smaller denomination coins.

    There are over 300 million people in the country. If everybody gets to pick something to waste money on because they happen to like it, it'll add up real fast.

    Uh so what is your point??

    That wasting money because you like what that wasted money is providing is not a good reason for wasting money.

    Uh ok l, still don't see how your comment has any relevance to the discussion or what I said but sure you go with that. :D

    That's cool. I can explain it to you but I can't understand it for you. :)

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    coinbufcoinbuf Posts: 10,769 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @MasonG said:

    @coinbuf said:

    @MasonG said:

    @coinbuf said:

    @MasonG said:

    @coinbuf said:
    I disagree with those who think we would be better off without them, the argument I always hear is that money is being wasted. I have no doubt that our government would find something just as useless to waste those funds on if we stopped making smaller denomination coins.

    There are over 300 million people in the country. If everybody gets to pick something to waste money on because they happen to like it, it'll add up real fast.

    Uh so what is your point??

    That wasting money because you like what that wasted money is providing is not a good reason for wasting money.

    Uh ok l, still don't see how your comment has any relevance to the discussion or what I said but sure you go with that. :D

    That's cool. I can explain it to you but I can't understand it for you. :)

    Yes its tough for me to understand foolish gibberish, makes sense that you do.

    My Lincoln Registry
    My Collection of Old Holders

    Never a slave to one plastic brand will I ever be.
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    savitalesavitale Posts: 1,406 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I was at the Philadelphia mint last year and found it mildly interesting. The machinery was not in operation at the time, on the weekend, but I'm not sure it would have looked that much different with it running. I think it is the kind of place that needs a tour guide to bring it to life.

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    savitalesavitale Posts: 1,406 ✭✭✭✭✭

    You can count me in with the folks who want to eliminate the penny. And the nickel. Actually, at this point you could probably round all transactions to the nearest dollar and it would hardly make a difference.

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    WingedLiberty1957WingedLiberty1957 Posts: 2,961 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited November 29, 2022 2:14AM

    Pictures of the Philly Mint long ago ... kind of interesting ... i believe circa 1910 or so ...





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    OnastoneOnastone Posts: 3,786 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I've never been to the mint....any of them. I imagine many employees lost their hearing back in the day, it must have been loud. It would be a real interesting tour if it included meeting artists, sculptures, coin design options, start to finish....maybe not so much the mining of the metals used but even that is interesting...you need a tour guide and people involved....not just automation. Might as well watch an episode of "How it's Made" on TV.https://youtu.be/Oe8iMQC-DAQ

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    GoldenEggGoldenEgg Posts: 1,924 ✭✭✭✭✭

    These first two photos actually appear to be the Royal Mint in London.

    @WingedLiberty1957 said:
    Pictures of the Philly Mint long ago ... kind of interesting ... i believe circa 1910 or so ...


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    MaywoodMaywood Posts: 1,900 ✭✭✭✭✭

    My entire working career aside from maybe the last 3-4 years was in manufacturing and heavy industry, so I find anything such as what takes place at the US Mint highly interesting. I recall as a child going to the Henry Ford Museum and Dearborn, Michigan on a visit to some neighbors who had moved there. The gardens at Greenfield Village influenced my lifelong passion for gardening.

    Though I've yet to visit a Mint it's on my list. Thanks for a nice write-up.

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    rickoricko Posts: 98,724 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I have been to Philadelphia a few times, as a kid and as an adult... Freedom Hall and the Liberty Bell are must see attractions. I have stood in front of the Mint, but never toured it. As far as coinage, I always have change in my pocket. Start the day with three quarters, three dimes, three nickels and four cents. Most days end with more change, but not always. I carry it so I can give exact funds for small purchases - though lately I have given bills so that I get quarters in change, looking for the elusive W's. I have used cents all my life... as a kid, a cent could by a 'penny candy'.... Eight cents to purchase a newspaper on my paper route. Cheers, RickO

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    BryceMBryceM Posts: 11,735 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Thanks for all the comments everyone.

    I did buy a US Mint set for each of my grandkids. Planting seeds, you know. ;)

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    daltexdaltex Posts: 3,486 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Just before the End of the World, in August 2019 I toured the Winnipeg mint. Similarly, the machines were shut down due to maintenance. Differently, they had tour guides. Tours were even offered in French.

    Two things: the collector coins are struck in Ottawa. This was only for the working coins. A highlight was when the tour guide asked for guesses as to how many coins they struck daily. My guess was off because I neglected to correct for the difference in populations between U.S. and Canada, mitigated by the fact that the RCM strikes many coins for foreign governments. My guess was something like 14 million. The guide was astonished that I was close to right. I think everyone else was between 1000 and 8000.

    I couldn't believe people actually thought Canada used fewer than a million coins per year.

    Fun trip.

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    CatbertCatbert Posts: 6,604 ✭✭✭✭✭

    It is a little sad reading your post OP. Coin usage is going the way of the Dodo bird. It must have an impact on our hobby for simply not being in people's daily lives so awareness of our hobby diminishes. However, I am encouraged by what I hear and see with the enthusiasm shown by YNs whose increased involvement in our hobby gives some hope.

    "Got a flaming heart, can't get my fill"
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    SweetpieSweetpie Posts: 466 ✭✭✭
    edited November 30, 2022 6:03AM

    C'mon, everyone. Admit it.

    The plot from the movie Coin Heist, went thru your mind.

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    olympicsosolympicsos Posts: 698 ✭✭✭✭

    @BryceM said:

    Some of this is somewhat unique to the US. In England and the rest of Europe, coins are a much larger part of day to day commerce. To some extent, at least, they have re-valuated their coinage to keep pace with inflation and ours has been largely static for eons. Even without the trend to electronic transactions, inflation alone will render even half-dollars irrelevant within another decade or two. People alive today remember when a decent meal could be had for a quarter. Today, an entire $25 box of cents isn't enough to pay for a sit-down meal at a cheap restaurant.

    Your thoughts?

    This might not be a bad thing after all. The GAO put out a report in 2019 stating that replacing the dollar bill with dollar coins would cost MORE than just keeping the dollar bill. Furthermore with the push to electric vehicles, there is a looming shortage of copper as copper and nickel will be high demand metals. I think the future with coins is bullion.

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