Circulating US coins are produced by the United Sates Mint facilities in Denver and Philadelphia. Most everyone is familiar with the "P" and "D" mintmarks on daily pocket change. Those are simply letter indicators for where the coins were minted, Denver or Philadelphia.
But did you know what location is responsible for minting the most coins? Or, whether the Mint is producing less or more circulating change these days?
For the first question, a quick assumption could be that Denver and Philadelphia mint circulating coins at an even rate. That is not always so.
For the second question, although the Mint issues billions of coins each year at an absolutely amazing rate, the demand for them has been falling by billions and billions compared to the late 90s and early 2000s.
While the population is increasing, transactions through plastic — credit cards and the like — are as well.
Does any of this really, truly "matter." Well, perhaps not. Yet, looking at the production figures and gaps between Denver and Philadelphia can strike some interest and raise intriguing mental questions.
Dave Harper over at Numismatic News talked about the very subject of production gaps just the other day. He offered a couple of comments,
"What’s going on in Philadelphia? For the cent through the dime denominations, there is a widening gap between Denver output and Philadelphia output … Is the eastern economy that much weaker than points West? Is Denver that much more productive? …"
As a measure for yourself, take a visual glance at some of the production figures from the Mint.
Penny, Nickel, Dime and Quarter Coin Production Charts (1999-2008)
(2008 figures go through to April.)
3-D charts compare which Mint facility produces the most coins of a type by a given year. The control panel in lower left may be used to stop or move slides.
Notice how total coin production is declining compared to numbers from the turn of the century. Also, outside just a few peaks and valleys, Philadelphia and Denver do follow general trends in production pace.
This year, however, as Harper also points out, its like Philadelphia is falling asleep. Outside a slight edge with Presidential $1 coins and quarters, Denver is producing more than double the amount of nickels, about triple the dimes and more than 300 million pennies compared to Philadelphia.
Why? Only the Mint knows for sure. But there must be a reason for such an unusual and atypical swing.
Do you want a deeper look at the numbers? Fore complete U.S. Mint production figures and tables, visit the CoinNews page, United States Mint Circulating Coin Production Figures for 1999-2008.