Public Tour Photos of US Mint at Denver, Colorado

by Darrin Lee Unser on December 30, 2013 · 2 comments

This second article in a series about our visit to the Denver Mint offers information and photos about its public tour.

Grand marble hallways complete with massive chandeliers, historic murals, gold bars worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, a machine gun nest and a story of internal employee theft are just a few of the intriguing items found while taking the public tour of the United States Mint at Denver, Colorado.

Photos of Public Tour in US Mint at Denver, Colorado

Some exhibits from the Denver Mint Public Tour – Larger, many more photos below

This tour is chock-full of information and displays that are sure to educate, entertain and enthrall all but the most critical of guests.

For reference, I must compare pubic tours of the Philadelphia and Denver Mints as they are each fresh in my memory from our two recent trips. Actually, they are the only public tours you can take of U.S. Mint production facilities since those at West Point and San Francisco are closed to the public. (We have visited and reported on all four this year. Each has their own charms.)

In Philadelphia, guests are treated to a museum-like experience in a modern, self-guided come and go environment that operates most weekdays 9 AM – 4:30 PM. In contrast, the public tour at the Denver Mint requires reservations as it is led by a guide.

The two facilities have both relocated and operated within different buildings over the years. Coin production in the United States began in Philadelphia way back in 1792. The current and fourth Philadelphia Mint facility opened in 1969. It is easily the biggest of the Mint’s four production plants. The first Denver Mint opened in 1863 to serve as an assay office. Denver only started striking coins for the government in 1906 after the completion of a larger facility that was modeled after the Medici Riccardi Palace in Florence, Italy.

US Mint facility at Denver, Colorado

United States Mint at Denver in 2013

United States Mint at Denver, Circa 1906

United States Mint at Denver, Circa 1906

United States Mint at Denver, Circa 1860

United States Mint at Denver, Circa 1860

United States Mint at Denver, Circa 1890

United States Mint at Denver, Circa 1890

The older building of the Denver Mint is a reason alone to take the tour. Its Grand Hallway is awe-inspiring. The marble, chandeliers and murals evoke a true grandeur one expects of a landmark structure.

Grand Hallway at the Denver Mint

Grand Hallway at the Denver Mint. Part of the original 1904 building, this building is listed on the Denver Register and National Register of Historic Places. The grand hallway is a highlight of the public tour and features Tiffany-style chandeliers that weigh up to 450 pounds. The chandeliers, made by Mitchell Vance Co., are surrounded by grey-veined white marble from Vermont and a terrazzo marble floor.


Vincent Aderente mural at Denver Mint - Commerce

Designed by famed muralist Vincent Aderente, this mural is one of three that adorn the Grand Hallway exit. This mural represents Commerce. The other murals, pictured below, represent Mining and Manufacturing.

Vincent Aderente mural at Denver Mint - Mining

A photo of the Vincent Aderente mural representing Mining

Vincent Aderente mural at Denver Mint - Manufacturing

A photo of the Vincent Aderente mural representing Manufacturing

The more than century-old building is drawn into the human condition by the placement of a machine gun nest added to the grand entry in 1934. For many years (through 1963), the nest was manned by U.S. Mint police armed with the likes of Thompson sub machine guns, Winchester repeating rifles, and tear gas-filled night sticks. They had access to a switch capable of releasing additional tear gas in multiple locations throughout the building.

Machine Gun Nest at Philadelphia Mint

Machine gun nest overlooking the Grand Hallway. It was used to protect the main entrance. Officers on duty were armed with a Thompson sub machine gun, a Winchester repeating rifle, and tear gas filled nightsticks. If needed, officers could press a foot petal inside the nest and set off tear gas in twenty different locations throughout the Grand Hallway. (The smaller photo in the upper right shows the inside of the gun nest that is pictured in the main photo.)

The reasons for the security measures become clear in other parts of the tour. In its first year of operation, the Denver Mint produced 167,371,035 gold and silver coins worth about $27 million. Production increased in later years requiring intensive steps to safeguard Mint assets.

Not all were focused on protecting government property, however. On the tour, we were regaled with the tale of Orville Harrington. Orville was a U.S. Mint employee who managed to steal fifty-three bars of gold alloy over a five-month period only to be arrested on February 4, 1920.

Speaking of gold bars, one of the most impressive parts of the tour was the opportunity to see three .999 fine gold bars weighing 27 ½ pounds apiece. These three bars are just a sample of those found in the lower decks of the building and in other U.S. Mint facilities.

Three gold bars at Denver Mint

A highlight for many visitors, this exhibit displays three 24-karat gold bars stored in the public tour gallery of the U.S. Mint at Denver.

A recount of the public tour and Denver Mint history would not be complete without mentioning its production of circulating coins. If you recall, the Denver Mint struck just over 167 million coins in its first year. Today, more than 50 million coins can be produced in a single day, though a typical one sees an output more in the range of 20 to 24 million coins. Its coin production total through November hit nearly 5.7 billion coins. Also produced at the Denver Mint are collector sets and commemorative coins.

Overlook of a coin production section at US Mint at Denver

This photo taken from the public tour gallery shows a section of the Denver Mint’s coin production floor

Special moments in the public tour include watching circulating coins being made and numismatic sets getting packaged. In upcoming articles, we’ll give a closer look, with both photos and videos, of the coin production and numismatic operations.

Overlook of numismatic area at US Mint at Denver

This photo taken from the public tour gallery shows an overlook of the numismatic area at US Mint in Denver

 

More Public Tour Photos from the US Mint at Denver, Colorado

Below are more photos. They show just a few of the many exhibits found throughout the public tour. Also and importantly, Denver Mint Public Tours are currently suspended until Feb. 27, 2014. Improvements are underway to offer an even better experience.

Scale, Denver Mint

An older-style scale used by the Mints. Counter-weights were placed on the left pan and the item(s) weighed on the right. When everything was balanced, the total of the counter-weights gave the weight of the object(s).

Mockup of an early 20th Century Denver Mint office

Here, a mock-up of one of the first Denver Mint offices from the early 1900’s. The portrait in back is of Abe Lincoln. The model ship in the far back was built by a Denver Mint employee.

The Millionaire Calculating Machine

The Millionaire Calculating Machine was used at the Denver Mint in the early 20th Century to calculate the deposits of gold and silver. Only 4,655 were produced and sold between 1893 and 1935.

Slag

The gray bars represent slag, which is an example of material being formed into ingots, or destroyed coins.

Destroyed, melted coins

Before 1994, problem coins were melted down into bars for later recycling. This photo and display shows a part of the melt that did not finish.

Janvier transfer engraving machine

This Janvier transfer engraving machine on display at the Denver Mint was actually used at the Philadelphia Mint in the early 1900′s. This machine was used to reduce the large engraving models to the actual coin size. Today, computers replace the need for the transfer engraving machine.

Replica of First Coining Press

Replica of first Coining Press used by the United States Mint

South Pressroom of Denver Mint, circa 1960

A photo of the South Pressroom of the Denver Mint, circa 1960

Automatic Weighing Machine, Denver Mint

Here, a photo of the Seyss automatic weighing machine. It was used in the early days of the U.S. Mint to weigh gold and silver coins. It has ten scales, each connected to tubes fitted for various coin denominations. Added blanks would get sorted in three ways – by exact weight, underweight and overweight. Heavy blanks would get filed and re-tested. Those that were too light were rejected for melting. Correctly weighted blanks would move on to a coining press.

Iems used as money, display at Denver Mint

This photo shows a section of a display about objects that were used as money. They include a boar tusk and shell necklace used as a “bride price” in New Guinea, an African dance wand festooned with cowrie shells, a clamshell money ring and a New Guinea dog-tooth necklace – these teeth were so valuable that they were counterfeited.

Cent Column in Public Tour at US Mint at Denver

This column of cents on display at the Denver Mint Public Tour is a child favorite. Inside are 127,389 of 2010-D Lincoln cents. The coin weight is about 698.4 pounds.

Silver dollar display

This photo shows a section of a display describing various silver dollars from around the world

Display of piggy banks from around the world

This photo shows the Mint’s display of unique piggy banks from around the world

History of gold, display at Denver Mint

A section of a display about gold and some of its early uses, to include several types of gold coins.

Different Parts of a Coin

One of the educational posters that describes the different parts of a coin

 

Next Article in Series About the U.S. Mint facility in Denver

The first article in our series about the Denver Mint offers an overview of the facility. The third and immediate next article was published on Jan. 6, 2014. It describes how the Mint makes its coin dies from rods of steel. Coin dies are installed in coining presses and impart their designs onto metal blanks to create coins. Later articles in this series show how coins for circulation are produced and the packaging of numismatic sets. Links to all of the articles are found in the right column.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe December 31, 2013 at 9:56 am

Orville Harrington must of had some pretty deep pockets.

Steve January 2, 2014 at 3:21 pm

I’ve lived in Denver for over 60 years and have yet to tour the Denver Mint. It’s on my to do list for next Spring for sure. Thanks for the info.

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