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U.S. Mint Designers and Operators Explain How Coins Are Made

Coins -- and currency design as a whole for that matter -- is so easy to take for granted. You take them out and put them into the meter when you need to park, retrieve them from the self-scan grocery store check out, and, at the end of the day, put them in your change jar. But what of the thought and processing that went into making those coins?

The U.S. Mint in Philadelphia -- the largest of five locations in the country -- opened its doors Tuesday for a tour to show off its recent renovation of its public tour exhibit and share to some insights into how the currency is made and designed.

CBS Local includes a podcast from KYW in its report describing the process.

It all begins with designers who first make the designs in clay, which is then transferred to plaster. Joe Menna is one of these people who is "responsible for all the designs that make their way on to U.S. coins,� as he puts it. He explains that all the designers will submit designs according to descriptions of how the coins should be based on narratives provided by the government. Designs are picked and then executed by a sculptor. Computer-graphics technology will then be used to transfer the engraved design to a machine that can churn them out on a mass scale.

Machines create dies that stamp the coins, but first the dies are polished, as the coins will not be machine polished afterward. This preserves all the details intended by the designer for the coin. If they are collector coins, they are additionally polished by hand.

Sheets of metal are then fed through a machine, which punches out the coins. The design is then stamped on these blanks.

Listen to the podcast:

"We are very proud to once again welcome the public into our Philadelphia facility home to see how coins and medals are made," Dick Peterson, Deputy Director, United States Mint, said in a statement.

"This project is one that showcases our production processes and gives the public a more modern, interactive experience. Our new tour route and exhibits also proudly tell the American public about the role the United States Mint plays in the financial fabric of our nation," said Peterson. "The new displays include numerous artifacts; tell the story about the history and current structure of the United States Mint; and explain the evolution of coin minting processes and operations."

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the use of the word "dye" to "dies."

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