Discovering the U.S. Mint at San Francisco

by Mike Unser on March 25, 2013 · 7 comments

A coin collector walking around the U.S. Mint facility in San Francisco for the first time is akin to a kid running around in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. The Mint is like a fortress, but it’s oh so wonderful inside.

 

Getting there turned into its own mini-adventure with a trying rental GPS and San Francisco streets that seemed biased towards trolleys and bicycle paths. I missed two crucial turns, burning away time. The SF Mint is not open to the public. I was there by invitation, and I was going to be late.

Fixed atop a hill that is enclosed by a barbed-wire fence, the Mint is almost foreboding as you’re ascending narrow residential streets and its outline suddenly takes shape. But I was thrilled to see it.

It took some 20 minutes more to get my first glimpse inside. Having already passed a background check, I didn’t give a thought about other security measures. I drove up to the gate in a rental, a sharp 2013 Chevy Camaro, and was looking to park. Stop, you don’t just do that. A U.S. Mint police officer had me reverse course, posthaste.

The turnaround was a jolt like a second cup of coffee. I needed it. A late flight put me into a hotel room at 2 AM local, or about three hours from my normal wake-up time in Texas.

 

As directed, I abandoned the rental roadside and made my way toward the guard station. After getting buzzed through a turnstyle entrance, I passed my ID through a small slot at the check point. My ID was matched against a list, and I was given a temporary access badge, my golden ticket.

It was the rental’s turn next, inspected inside and out for explosives. The Camaro looked good in daylight. Gray suited it well but yellow or red could have been better… and a remote to pop the hood and trunk a definite plus. Locating the release levers inside the car for the inspection proved a bit time consuming and embarrassing.

The officer was exceptionally polite and professional throughout. Giving me the green light, the big gate opened and the blocking bars lowered to the ground. I entered, parked the car and made my way inside.

Talking to more U.S. Mint police at another security station, I learned I made the amateur mistake of having coins in my laptop bag. Yeah, that was pretty stupid. Coins do not go into the Mint, they only go out… I ditched my laptop and bag. After walking through the metal detector, I grabbed my camera and began the day’s adventure.

Here I will end this part of the story. I hope you’ll join me Friday, March 29, for the first in a series of articles and a ton of photos that offer a behind the scenes look at the inner workings of the U.S. Mint in San Francisco.

S.F. Mint Vault Door

Return Friday, March 29, to learn what’s behind this massive vault door.

Articles Series About U.S. Mint at San Francisco

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

yawnmoth March 25, 2013 at 11:41 pm

I want an invite! Is someone handing them out or something? :D

george glazener March 26, 2013 at 8:29 am

Sure. I hereby invite you to go there..!! Buy me something at the gift shop..!!

steve1942 March 26, 2013 at 11:00 am

Approximately ten years ago, one of the Documentary TV stations had an hour special, “The Secrets of the U S Mint”. I believe portions of the program were from The Granite Lady. It was a terrific show. As old as it is, it would still be worth watching. Most of these documentaries are for sale or can be picked up from a home recording, being sold on Ebay. Of course, this excellent show is not for sale nor has it been re-shown for years. I live within 3 hours of this Mint. This article didn’t explain how the invitation was given nor where to find the photos on March 29. I too would love an invite, the photos would be interesting, and a copy of the documentary would be worth purchasing. If anyone has any information concerning these issues, please place a comment on this page.

yawnmoth March 26, 2013 at 12:24 pm

I assume the photos will be posted on this blog.

Boz March 26, 2013 at 1:51 pm

There also was a TV special on Ft. Knox, which seemed to support the theory that the is no gold left at the treasury, only paper IOU’S to Red China. Anxiously looking for you report, Mr. Mike, hoping that you will find that the gold was simply misplaced in San Francisco. While you are at it, hope the missing hoard of Morgans show up as well.

Joe March 29, 2013 at 10:53 am

Mike Unser where are your articles and photos of the U.S. mint in San Francisco? I was looking forward to them. What’s behind the massive vault door?

Mike Unser March 29, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Joe, the second article in the series is now linked above. At the end of the series we will also publish a single page that has all of the SF Mint photos. Thanks for reading CoinNews.net.

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