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.
Articles Series About U.S. Mint at San Francisco