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).
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.
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.
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.
Before any are struck, the U.S. Mint must first get silver blanks from vendors.
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.
Once okayed for production, the blanks are stacked into cassettes and fed into coining presses like shown below.
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.
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.