You’ll probably want to check out my earlier article about the history of coins and coin collecting first.
Now, onto how U.S. coins have been made throughout the years…
How U.S. Coins Are Made
Today, they have large machinery at the mints that can produce millions of coins per day. But what did they use before this technology came along?
Well, back in 800BC they would have used the hammer method. A workman used a hammer to reduce the thickness of a sheet of metal, in which the blanks were then cut out by shears, then filed and hammered to reach the desired weight and thickness of the coin.
The coin maker then carried out the so-called striking by putting a blank on the fixed die and holding the die above by hand. He then struck several blows with a hammer to finish the coin. Sounds like a lot of work to make one coin huh? Now, think how long it would take to make several of them.
Early U.S. Mints
Later on, the first American coins made in the U.S. mints were made by using screw presses. It took three men to operate a screw press, some on each end of a weighted iron bar and another man seated in front of the press. (Animals were sometimes used to power the presses.)
The seated man would insert planchets and remove the finished coins. The other men would tug on leather straps attached to the iron bar. The bar was attached to a heavy iron screw which drove an upper die down towards a lower one when the men on one side of the bar pulled it towards them. Then, when the men on the other side tugged on the bar, the screw and upper die were raised and the seated man would remove the finished coin.
A good team of coiners could turn out several dozen small coins per minute. Not bad, but still not very fast.
In March of 1836 a steam powered coining press imported from France was put to work in the United States Mint. Power to turn the press was supplied by a belt from the steam engine. It had a capacity of 100 coins per minute.
View details and pictures of the steam press here.
When the more efficient presses finally came along, the old steam press was taken from its home at the mint and placed in a museum.
Modern Day U.S. Mints
In early years, producing coins took a lot of time and was very hard work.
In comparison, today’s Philadelphia and Denver Mints use modernized machines perform a version of the same work done in 1792 and can produce more than 75 million coins in 24 hours almost effortlessly. WOW… Now that’s a lot of coins!
The United States Mint operates 6 facilities across the United States with each facility performing unique functions. Current facilities are located in: Washington, DC; Philadelphia, PA; West Point, NY; Fort Knox, KY; Denver, CO; and San Francisco, CA.
Source: U.S. Mint
Watch an online video showing how coins are made today.
More about the U.S. Mint.
Check out the official U.S. Mint catalog of recent coin issues and other products.
More about U.S. Mint history.