Conveyor system carries hundreds of thousands of ready-to-strike planchets at the Philadelphia Mint to coinage presses to be struck into Lincoln cents.
The Federal Reserve has increased its orders for millions more Lincoln cents, making cents the majority of the circulating coin output of the Philadelphia Mint.
During an Aug. 6 production floor tour of the Philadelphia Mint, Coin World learned that Lincoln cents account for 60 to 65 percent of the facility’s current daily output for circulation, according to Joseph Falls, chief of the Philadelphia Mint’s coining division.
According to Falls, the facility’s two shifts, together, currently produce approximately 30 million coins daily, with each shift’s output comprising 9.5 million cents, 1.4 million 5-cent coins, 2.5 million dimes, and 2.5 million quarter dollars. Those figures change as needed to meet Fed orders.
Production of the two lowest denominations continues to be at a loss to the Mint, as both the cent and 5-cent coin cost more to produce than their face values.
The Denver Mint also recently switched to a two-shift operation from three.
Falls said adopting the two-shift format will allow for increased production. Some equipment was unused during parts of the three-shift operations since not enough employees were present to operate them.
The employees from the dropped “second shift” have been evenly redeployed to the remaining two shifts, commonly called the “first” and “third shifts.” Under a 5-4-9 system, each shift works nine hours Monday through Thursday, with alternate Fridays being either an eight-hour day or a day off. The first shift works from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the “third” shift is on duty from 9:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. The coining division has 120 employees producing coins for circulation.
The Philadelphia Mint operates seven press lines of nine presses each and two lines of seven presses each. Five lines are dedicated to cent production, one to 5-cent coins, two lines to dimes and one line to quarter dollars.
The facility also has three stand-alone presses that can be used for any of the currently produced circulating coin denominations; they are now striking cents.
For a production run of the cents, containers holding 850,000 cent blanks shipped from Jarden are dumped into the conveyor system for feeding into the coinage presses. Struck coins are shipped in jumbo nylon bags containing 400,000 each to the Federal Reserve Banks or coin terminals.
Line 1, which, until Presidential dollar production for circulation was suspended, was dedicated to dollar coin production, has been switched to cent production. Line 6, formerly dedicated to quarter dollar production, is also striking cents. In the fall, Line 1 will revert to dollar coin production for numismatic sales and Line 6 will revert to quarter dollar output.
Three people operate each press line — a die setter, a press operator and a bagger. Production maintenance mechanics, considered the most experienced technicians, are on hand to troubleshoot any problems encountered that might interrupt production.
Falls said that at the end of each production run — when all planchets are exhausted — all materials are removed from all channels within the coinage line, all tooling is inspected and all dies are removed. All hoppers designated for coins or planchets are also inspected to make sure nothing is left behind. Such pieces could inadvertently become mixed in with the wrong denominations. ■