American Silver Eagle Production at West Point Mint

by Darrin Lee Unser on September 19, 2014 · 2 comments

This article with photos and videos discusses the production and packaging of bullion American Silver Eagles at the West Point Mint.

On our recent visit to the United States Mint at West Point, my brother Mike and I were given the opportunity to witness a lot of the operations. Truth be told, our initial excitement centered on the production of 2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy half-dollars (see photos of the reverse proof silver and proof Kennedy gold coins).

West Point Mint American Silver Eagle Production

Some employees from the West Point Mint, coining presses, American Silver Eagle bullion coins, silver blanks and monster boxes

Speaking for myself, I was also in awe at the vault of about $2 billion in gold and silver bars. Still, another aspect of the West Point Mint that caught my attention was the production of bullion American Silver Eagles.

Gold and Silver Bullion Bars at West Point Mint

A photo of some gold and silver bars that are vaulted at the West Point Mint.

As was alluded to in an earlier article on assaying procedures, the United States Mint is the world’s leader in bullion production with tens of millions in bullion coins produced each year. In fact, last year saw record Silver Eagle sales of 42.6 million. The lion’s share of those was produced at the West Point Mint.

From 2001 through 2010, the West Point facility was solely responsible for striking bullion American Silver Eagles. That changed in 2011 as soaring demand reached unprecedented levels leading to supplemental production at the San Francisco Mint.

For a bit more reference, we can look to last month’s tally of more than 2 million Silver Eagles sold. If the West Point Mint produced roughly three-fourths of them, that’s about 102,857 pounds of silver which is more than the combined weight of three school buses. And at 1.5 million, over 70,000 had to get struck each working day of the month.

Coining Presses at West Point Mint

A line of coining presses at the West Point Mint

Of course, American Silver Eagle production is greatly automated, but it still falls on the capable men and women of the West Point Mint to keep the machines operating smoothly.

Jeremy Huber, Coin Manufacturer at West Point Mint

Jeremy Huber, Coin Manufacturer at the West Point Mint, is operating a press producing 1 oz American Silver Eagle bullion coins.


Chris Toombs, Coin Manufacturer at West Point Mint

Chris Toombs, Coin Manufacturer, is also making American Silver Eagles

Before any are struck, the U.S. Mint must first get silver blanks from vendors.

Planchets for bullion American Silver Eagles

Trays of silver blanks for American Silver Eagle production

They are delivered ready for press, though they must be approved for weight, composition and quality. Queue the assay lab which pulls samples for verification. Remember, the weight and purity of every American Silver Eagle is guaranteed by the United States government.

West Point Mint Assaying

A few of the West Point Mint employees and assaying devices

Once okayed for production, the blanks are stacked into cassettes and fed into coining presses like shown below.

Planchets Fed into Coining Press at West Point Mint

These blanks are loaded into the side of a coining press, and get automatically fed as needed. The right side of the photo shows a close-up of the feeder with blanks stacked.

Automatically, these planchets are placed in between obverse and reverse dies and American Eagle are created under thousands of pounds of pressure.

 

They come out of the press at a quick pace, and slide on trays like the ones below.

Freshly Minted bullion American Silver Eagles

American Silver Eagles straight from a coining press

These trays are later placed into a large packaging machine. This high-speed, circular packer automatically drops Silver Eagles into protective 20-coin tubes, caps them, and collects 25 tubes to place into a green monster boxes for shipping. Watch the video below to see how the machine works. A neat part of the process is seeing how caps for coin tubes that are upside down get blown off the line.

 

Keep in mind, strict procedures are in place throughout the production process to insure the quality of each coin. Stringent controls are also in place as part of an internal accountability program safeguarding the public’s interest. All precious metal is accounted for by the end of each shift.

It is clear from our visit that the employees of the West Point Mint are extremely proud of what they do and that their expertise in their respective fields will continue to result in coins that will be admired around the world.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

S. Buckles September 19, 2014 at 9:39 am

Fascinating!

Kevin September 20, 2014 at 10:16 pm

Great story, pictures and video. However it seems to me that even Lucille Ball on the candy assembly line was a bit quicker and more efficient than the computerized machine putting lids/caps onto the 20 coin silver eagle tubes. (As seen in the video)

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