Under the U.S. Mint at San Francisco

by Mike Unser on March 29, 2013 · 5 comments

Take a few seconds… picture a labyrinth of underground vaults filled with silver, copper and other precious things… That’s what I saw under the United States Mint at San Francisco.

S.F. Mint Vault Door

Secured by a door that’d give pause to the Incredible Hulk’s might, I beheld the man cave of all man caves.

"A man cave, sometimes a manland, mantuary or manspace, is a male sanctuary, such as a specially equipped garage, spare bedroom, media room, den, or basement," Wikipedia describes.

If only this one was mine…

There were vaults within the vault, behind that massive door.

It’s somewhat challenging to describe this part of my private tour at the San Francisco Mint. My mind fogged walking the hallways and peaking inside the many vaulted rooms. They seemed endless. But there is one unforgettable moment that I will try to relay.

Given the scope of area I first toured through that big door, I was surprised to learn that I wasn’t standing on the only level. A hoard of vaults within one big one, but there are more below? You gotta love that.

It took some stair-stepping to get to, but we did. If you’ve ever ascended to the peak of an old coastal lighthouse, you’ve drudged up its long and spiral winding staircase. Your vision narrows until that expansive scene suddenly unfolds. Imagine the same if you will, but instead going down and down and down… and then this:

San Francisco Mint Vaults

Please take a moment to click on the photo and enlarge it. The thumbnail above really doesn’t express the reality of it all. Try to count the number of vault doors in that one hallway alone.

Officially, these floors and vaults are where U.S. Treasury and U.S. Mint assets are stored and secured. Naturally for the San Francisco Mint, some of these assets include the various coin blanks it uses, like those to produce the proof coins in the just released 2013 Proof Set or the bullion blanks for the American Silver Eagles.

Let’s get to a few more photos and wind down this article…

Here is a bin of dollar blanks that are used to create proof Presidential $1 Coins and proof Native American $1 Coins:

Presidential and Native American Dollar Coin Blanks

The following photo shows coin blanks for bullion American Silver Eagles. If you notice, these blanks already have their rims. They came that way from outside vendors. Most rims for proof coins produced at the San Francisco Mint are created in-house after they go through the annealing process (described in the next article).

Bullion Blanks for American Silver Eagles

These are silver blanks used for half-dollars:

Silver Blanks for Half-Dollar

The vaults also hold finished product. In that dense fog I mentioned earlier, I saw but failed to take photos of countless American Silver Eagles stored and sealed in monster boxes.

In addition to pallets (left), large metal bins (right) are used to transport blanks and coins.

Pallets of Coin Blanks Bins of Stored Coin Blanks

This short tale now comes to a close. Please join me for the next ones.

Next Article About the U.S. Mint at San Francisco

Return Wednesday, April 3, for the next article in a several part series that describes my visit to the U.S. Mint at San Francisco. That article begins an illustrative journey of the SF Mint’s day-to-day activities. It features many walkthrough photos of preparing blanks for proof coins, including their trip through: the annealing furnace for softening, upsetting mill to place rim effects and burnishing station for polishing.

Do you know what this machine does? Learn all about it in one of the upcoming SF Mint articles.

Machine at SF Mint

Article Series About U.S. Mint at San Francisco

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike March 30, 2013 at 9:40 am

Great article it only makes me want to visit. I recently found out as a Master Club Member of The Royal Canadian Mint I am entitled to a guided visit to that mint. The next time I go home to Michigan I think I’ll arrange that activity of “Mancavedom”!

Joe March 30, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Nice job.

John M April 1, 2013 at 4:10 am

Great! Cool tour, and not the ordinary one the hoi polloi sees, to be sure. Looking forward to the one about preparation of blanks, and wondering if they showed you anything about hub and die manufacture.

Joe April 3, 2013 at 11:45 pm

Mike Unser – what happen to your article today.

Mike Unser April 4, 2013 at 12:20 am

Joe, it made it out a few minutes before midnight. I’m sorry about the delay. I was in a media conference with the U.S. Mint today about its new laser frosting technique for proof coins — some powerful changes. I bumped everything back a bit as a result. News about the laser frosting is coming soon…

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