When I was a little girl, maybe the 3rd grade, I toured the mint in Washington, DC - where dollars are made. It made an impression. Still fresh in my mind are sights, smells and thoughts I had that day.
A couple of years ago, I wanted to tour the Denver Mint but quickly realized you had to have reservations. As in, months in advance, kind of reservations. Knowing we would be in Colorado this summer, I made it priority to make those reservations so that John Isaac would be able to see how our coins were made.
So imagine my great disappointment when we showed up at the gate and no one was there. Except security guards to tell me that our reservations were invalid. The next available slots for a tour would be sometime in September - when we were back in Arkansas. (Turns out, the reservation system was revamped shortly after I made reservations and they dropped all the scheduled tours.)
To say I was disappointed was an understatement. In my hand were our confirmation numbers. We were so close to seeing the inner sanctum of what makes the world go 'round yet so far from actually seeing anything of importance. I tried to turn on my best southern charm (and homeschooling mom, and chief nerd of tours.) Is there any way possible we could be allowed to join another group?!
The guard had pity on us and let us join the next group an hour later. He didn't have to, and when we came back for the tour, I heard him turn away SEVERAL people who tried to join the group without reservations. I was thankful for our exception.
Once inside we had to power off our phones. No pictures were allowed. It was an interesting tour. However, the video running in the gift shop (where we waited for our tour to begin) was more detailed than the actual tour.
A few things I learned:
-Today there is more zinc in pennies than copper. Since 1982, the composition of the penny has been 97.5% zinc. It costs about $0.025 to make a penny. If you find pennies older than 1982, save them to sell as scrap metal - copper is only going up in value!
-I learned a new word: numismatic which means the study or collection of currency. A person who collects coins is called a numismatists. The word was borrowed in 1792 from French numismatiques, meaning "coin." Also the Greek word νέμω (nemō) means "I dispense, divide, assign, keep, hold."
-The mint employees pass through a very sensitive metal detector on their way home so as not to escape with any coins. If an employee comes to work with change in their pocket, at the end of the day they get to donate those coins to the US government.
-Ft. Knox, Kentucky is not the only gold depository. There are gold bars in the Denver Mint, though we only saw 3.
-The Denver Mint has produced coins for other countries (ones I remember: Israel and Panama but there were a handful of others. Foreign currency is no longer made in US Mints.)
A couple of blocks from the Denver Mint is the Colorado Capitol. It was under construction so we did not tour it, just took a picture from afar.