the u.s. mint in denver

Posted on October 22nd, 2011 by mountain girl  |  3 Comments »

We live only an hour from one of the 2 places in the U.S. where you can watch money being made (literally). So finally, after waiting our turn for 2 months, off we went yesterday to visit the United States Mint in Denver.

The Denver Mint is one of just four mints across the country. The Denver and Philadelphia mints make circulated coins and offer public tours; the San Francisco and West Point, NY locations make only proof coins for collectors.

Denver also happens to be the world’s top coin making facility. It produces more coins each year than anywhere else.

The U.S. Mint in Denver was established in 1863, 5 years after gold was discovered in Colorado – and just 4 years after the city of Denver was founded! It seems this city is built on money. There’s gold in them thar hills.

Our tour started at 1:00 sharp. We had to go through a security scanner and put all our things (belts, wallets, etc.) through an x-ray. No bags, backpacks, water bottles, and (sadly) cameras. There was no messing with those beefy armed security guards.

So we put our camera to work before the tour. (I couldn’t pass up these cuties.)

Our tour guide was great. He offered us all kinds of historical tidbits…like the story of Orville Harrington.

Orville was an employee of the Denver Mint around 1920. He managed to smuggle about $80,000 in gold bits out of the mint, which would be about $5-6 million today.

(Rumor has it that he smuggled the loot out in his wooden leg. He really did have a wooden leg, but it was probably most helpful by providing a good limp to distract officials from the bulge in his pocket each evening.)

He was finally caught red-handed when a Secret Service agent followed him home and caught him burying the day’s “cache” in his yard. Harrington was sentenced to 10 years in jail, but was paroled (for good behavior) after 3 1/2. He went back to working for the city of Denver, believe it or not.

Although of course I can’t show pictures of the actual minting process, it was really cool to see it happening before our eyes.

If you ever get the chance to tour either the Denver Mint or the one in Philly, you should really do it. It was fascinating to learn about the process of making coins, both today and historically in the U.S.

We also got to see the new uncirculated proof coins for next year, which was super cool. Can you keep a secret? Shhh…Crazy Horse (and his horse) will be on the back of the 2012 Sacajawea gold coin.

Speaking of Sacajawea, Zia scored this giant coin from the gift shop (no limp involved – but she had to climb on the counter in order to hand her Dadda’s credit card to the cashier.)

She was thrilled with her coin. I’ve often told her the story of how I had a huge copper penny when I was a kid (probably from the NY State Fair) and how much I liked that penny. So of course, she’s always wanted one – and this was finally her day!

Caleb made out pretty good too. He bought this Andrew Johnson proof coin, of which only 500 were made with that fancy aluminum encasement.

The back features our lovely Lady Liberty.

He also got a bag of Wheat pennies. He’s been researching their dates ever since, but the most valuable so far is worth about 10 cents. Boo.

Somehow, I think we all struck it rich anyway.

3 Responses to “the u.s. mint in denver”

  1. barefootmama says on :

    This is a really interesting post. My husband wants to read it now..haha! I will probably read it to the girls tomorrow in school…THANKS! Barefoot Mama

  2. jodi says on :

    I am going to have to read this to Josh. He loves this kind of stuff (and I do too). I used to share a coin collection with my brothers when we were little. I wonder what happened to it? 🙂

  3. mountain girl says on :

    Barefoot Mama,
    I’m glad you liked the post. I’m not sure how far you are from Fort Worth, but being in Texas, you might like to plan a trip to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing
    ( It’s where they make paper money, and they offer free tours. Let me know if you go (or if you’ve already been there!)