How the Philadelphia Mint Makes ATB 5 Oz Silver Coins

by Darrin Lee Unser on September 27, 2013 · 3 comments

This sixth article about our visit to the U.S. Mint at Philadelphia includes photos and videos showing how America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Coins are made.

Half of the nation’s coins for circulation are made at the United States Mint facility in Philadelphia, but it also makes products for investors and collectors like the America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Coins.

I was captivated by how the three-inch coins are produced from a single multi-stroke press. It operates so much differently than the Philadelphia Mint’s more than 60 presses that make circulating coins. Enter the impressive German-made Grabener 1000 press, capable of striking 40 coins a minute with up to 1000 tons of pressure.

Grabener 1000 Ton Coin Press at Philadelphia Mint

Grabener 1000 ton press. This press strikes America the Beautiful three-inch bullion and uncirculated silver coins. It takes three operators to run this press which makes the 5 ounce, .999 silver coins that honor America’s 56 national parks and other national sites in each state, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories.

America the Beautiful three-inch coins are offered in an uncirculated quality for collectors with a "P" mint mark, and a bullion version for investors. As a touch of perspective, for this year and as of today, this one coining press has resulted in United States Mint sales of:

  • 110,000 coins, or 550,000 ounces, in investment-grade America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Bullion Coins.
  • 67,468 coins, or 337,340 ounces, in collectible America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Uncirculated Coins.

Let’s get to how it all happens…

How 3" America the Beautiful Silver Coins Are Made

To begin coining, operators place three-inch planchets into black holders so they fit snugly on the presses’ continuous conveyor system. These planchets are purchased ready to strike, with each already upset, annealed and sonically cleaned.

Planchets for America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Coins

Planchets for America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Coins. These are manually fed into the press via a conveyor shown below.


External Conveyor on Grabener Coin Press

Three-inch planchets are hand-placed onto this conveyor section of the Grabener coining press.

Five ounce silver planchets travel inside the coining press by conveyor, which is shown stationary in the video and two photos below. When the press is running, planchets move continuously around the conveyor just like luggage on an airport’s baggage carousel.

Internal Conveyor of Grabener Press at Philadelphia Mint

Here, silver planchets in their black holders, looking almost like hockey pucks, move along the outer part the Grabener Press until they turn inward.

When the press needs a planchet to strike, a robotic arm with suction cups grabs one from the conveyor and places it into position.

Suction Cups Holding Planchet

At left, a robotic arm with two suctions cups holds a planchet that was plucked from the conveyor. It will move it to the track for striking.

In the main pressing area, a heads or obverse die is anchored. These dies, which are also made by the Philadelphia Mint, bear negative designs so they can create the positive coin image. The obverse die serves as the anvil or stationary die. This piece has the large image of John Flanagan’s portrait of George Washington along with surrounding inscriptions of UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, LIBERTY, IN GOD WE TRUST, and QUARTER DOLLAR.

A three-piece collar surrounds the die. On one of those pieces, an edge inscription reads .999 FINE SILVER 5.0 OUNCE. This will be incused into the edge of the coin at pressing time.

Photo of Edge Letterings on America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Coins

This photo shows the incused edge letterings that appear on all America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Coins. These happen to be bullion versions. Unlike collector products, the U.S. Mint does not sell bullion coins directly to the public. Instead, they are purchased in bulk by U.S. Mint distributors who then sell them into the secondary market for a bit over their silver value. These particular bullion coins were purchased from a coin dealer.

In vertical alignment to the obverse die is the reverse hammer die. It has the reverse or tails image of the coin along with the inscriptions of the site name, its location (state or territory), the year of minting and E PLURIBUS UNUM.

As a blank planchet is fed into the collar, the reverse hammer die is hydraulically driven down with incredible pressure toward the obverse anvil die. The metal from the trapped planchet flows between the two dies, transferring the designs and creating the coin. Out from the front of the press slides a freshly minted America the Beautiful Silver Coin. At the same time, another planchet is slid into position for striking.

At a rate slow enough to watch, yet still quite fast, the following video shows a planchet sliding into position for three strikes. The resulting new silver coin falls down a chute and onto a waiting pallet.

Here, photos show the inner components of the coining press as seen in the video.

Pressing and coin die area of Grabener press

Striking and die area of Grabener press.

Striking, coin die area of Grabener press.

Here, a closer view of the pressing area.

Grabener Press 5 Oz Silver Coin Workflow

A new Perry’s Victory five ounce silver coin is about to drop down a chute and on a tray while, at the same time, a fresh planchet is fed for striking.

This process is fascinating with all the internal movements and activity. Watching shiny America the Beautiful Silver Coins slide down in front of you is something you just don’t forget.

America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Coins Straight from Coin Press

America the Beautiful three-inch bullion silver coins honoring the Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial site in Ohio slide out from the Grabener 1000 ton press. The site honors those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812 and to celebrate the long-lasting peace among Britain, Canada and the U.S.

Collector Uncirculated Silver Coins are Vapor Blasted

Collector America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Uncirculated Coins are pressed exactly like the bullion versions, but there are some differences.

To start, dies placed in the Grabener press for the uncirculated coins are more polished, and the obverse die has the "P" mint mark. Also, after the silver coins are created they are moved to another machine for vapor blasting. This process removes the brilliant finish that is kept for bullion coins and creates a consistent coin-to-coin matte finish for the uncirculated coins. To achieve this matte finish, the machine "blasts" the silver coins with a water vapor and ceramic media mix. The process is like sand blasting but instead of using dry compressed air the machine uses compressed wet vapor.

You can see the difference. Photos of several uncirculated silver coins follow. Note how their finish is different from coins immediately out of the Grabener press. The first photo is of a 2013-P Mount Rushmore America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Uncirculated Coin. These are scheduled to launch in early November but the Philadelphia Mint in August was already building an inventory of them.

2013 Mount Rushmore America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Uncirculated Coin

2013 Mount Rushmore America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Uncirculated Coin


America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Uncirculated Coins Struck at Philadelphia Mint

More America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Uncirculated Coins Struck at the Philadelphia Mint

Before closing, we wanted to add one more video that we discovered during our research. This one, by the United States Mint, is a bit dated at over two years old but it still offers a nice overview on how America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Coins are made.

That’s it for this article. Thank you for visiting CoinNews.net and please come back.

Final Articles in Series About the Philadelphia Mint

Return Friday, October 4, for a short article that takes a quick look into how the Philadelphia Mint prepares collectible proof dies for making First Spouse Gold Coins. Then return Monday, October 7, for the last article in our series. This one offers final comments, and it’ll have every photo we’ve published.

Links to past articles about the Philadelphia Mint are found in the upper right of this page, directly below the Google map of the facility.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin September 27, 2013 at 11:50 pm

Nice article and videos. I’ve bought several of the burnished variety but have yet to open any of the Mint sealed boxes. Tough to not open them and even tougher now after seeing their beauty here.

David September 30, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Amazing process!!! So glad we have large beautiful silver coins available to us

thePhelps October 2, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Well…looking at the blanks used – it is no wonder my Perry’s victory looked like some of those. The streaks were on it before it was pressed.

I do like this series as well – wish I had been able to get in on the first 2 years of the P coin – but I’ll be happy with what I can get.

The Rushmore coin looks pretty spectacular to me! Iwas glad to see it in this write up!

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