The fourth Philadelphia Mint, opened in 1969 at Fifth and Arch streets, is receiving a $3.9 million face-lift to its public exhibits and visitors center area that is on target for completion and reopening July 3.
Six months after the public tour areas of the Philadelphia Mint were closed for renovations, the self-guided tours are on schedule to resume at 1 p.m. July 3.
Tom Jurkowsky, director of the U.S. Mint’s Office of Public Affairs, said June 5 that the $3.9 million facelift by Quatrefoil in Laurel, Md., for renovations and installation of interactive exhibits and videos is on schedule for completion and is within budget.
Completion of the project and the reopening of the Philadelphia Mint’s tour area to the public will occur one month before the Aug. 7 to 11 American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Mint tour is expected to attract collectors attending the ANA convention.
The tour areas closed Jan. 3.
While the general footprint of the areas for the tour and exhibits remains the same, Mint officials say visitors to the nation’s largest coin production facility will get a more close-up experience seeing how U.S. coins are made, once the renovations are complete.
The renovations include opening up more window space for visitors to view the Philadelphia Mint’s main production floor during the self-guided walking tour.
While the renovated, redesigned and enhanced visitors areas will still include a self-guided tour of the production floor viewed from the third floor, the intent is to make the experience more enjoyable for the more than 250,000 people who visit the Philadelphia facility annually, said Abbie Chessler, Quatrefoil’s co-founding partner and head of design.
The viewing area is positioned 40 feet above the production floor.
Enhanced exhibits will also be displayed throughout the first floor lobby and second floor mezzanine.
Quatrefoil designed and is installing the new interactive, video and static displays, with audio augmentation. The firm has been working closely with the U.S. Mint’s historian, curatorial staff and other Mint personnel on the exhibit design process as well as working with Mint staff to determine which of the heritage assets that were on public display up until Jan. 3 will remain on view in the new exhibits, what pieces will be removed from display and what other items might be substituted.
“Heritage assets” represent coins, medals, models, documents and other historical items associated with production of money in general, and by the U.S. Mint and Philadelphia Mint specifically.
Among the current highlights that will continue to be featured in the expansive lobby area of the fourth Philadelphia Mint are the seven glass mosaic panels — two oblong and five round — executed under the direction of Louis B. Tiffany for display at the third Philadelphia Mint on Spring Garden Street upon its opening in 1901.
The Favrile glass panels, made by designs from William B. Van Ingen, illustrate the ancient Roman methods and processes of coinage and were originally commissioned by the U.S. Mint at a cost of $40,000. The seven panels were appraised at $420,000 in 1971, and have not been appraised since.
The two oblong pieces measure 49.5 inches high and 166.25 inches wide, while the round panels are 59.5 inches in diameter.
The figures of children are used in the Mint’s glass panels illustrating the ancient Roman coinage processes of melting, granulating, annealing or drying, weighing, stamping and finishing. Their use was suggested by a wall painting unearthed from the Casa dei Vettii during the excavations at Pompeii in 1895.
Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79, burying Pompeii. The Vettian mural, thought to have been done in the first half century of the Christian era, shows plump, winged cupids performing the ancient coinage methods.
The glass mosaics were removed from the third Philadelphia Mint for permanent display beginning in June 1971 at the fourth Mint. The newer facility, located at Fifth and Arch streets, opened in 1969.
Chessler said all of the glass panels have undergone conservation and cleaning. Special lighting — which the panels previously did not have — has been added to the area to bring out the enhanced brilliance of each glass tile.
Jurkowsky said more than 200 coins, medals, plaster models, and other artifacts will complement the exhibits, and include most of the items previously on exhibit, but in modernized displays.
Among the items to be displayed in the exhibits area are these:
➤ The federal Mint’s first coining press, used to strike the nation’s first coins in 1792.
➤ A Janvier reduction lathe, introduced at the Philadelphia Mint in 1907. The lathe is new to the exhibit area. The stylus on one side of the lathe’s pantograph would trace the details of the galvano, a positive reading, larger-than-life metal model of one side of a coin, while a cutting tool would simultaneously cut the details into steel on the machine’s other side to create a master hub, from which master dies would be made. The lathe traced the design elements of the galvano, and reduced them in size through a series of gears. The process often took days to complete a cycle. The galvano was replaced by an epoxy model. Computerized technology in recent years has rendered the Janvier reduction lathe obsolete.
➤ The key to the first Philadelphia Mint and the Mint Deed signed by President Andrew Jackson on Jan. 12, 1836, for the sale of the first Mint. A chair and boot scraper from the first Philadelphia Mint are also included in the exhibits.
➤ The preserved body of Peter the Mint eagle, a real bald eagle who made the first United States Mint his home. The Mint’s engraving staff still studies Peter when working on new eagle designs.
➤ The gold medal presented to Gen. Anthony Wayne for his capture of Stony Point during the Revolutionary War. To be added is George Washington’s handwritten letter of transmission to Wayne accompanying the medal.
➤ The desktop balance used by the first U.S. Mint director, David Rittenhouse, to weigh coins and medals.
The exhibit area will also include displays incorporating coin and medal artifacts, including the obverse and reverse working dies for a Thomas Jefferson Indian peace medal, and various master hubs, dies and plaster models for coins and medals.
Also to be included are a number of gold and silver circulating and commemorative coins from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
Sales area, gift shop
The sales center offering U.S. Mint numismatic products and related souvenirs closed for only two weeks during the larger project, for its own renovations. The sales center is operated by Aramark, which also operates the sales center outside the entrance to the guided tour and visitors center area of the Denver Mint.
The Philadelphia Mint sales center reopened to the public May 29 upon completion of its renovations.
Tammy McIntyre, Aramark’s general manager for the Philadelphia and Denver Mint gift shops, said June 6 that the undisclosed costs for the sales center renovation at the Philadelphia Mint were borne by Aramark.
The sales center was redesigned by Thinking Outside the Square, a full-service design firm specializing in three-dimensional design and branding, McIntyre said.
Check the U.S. Mint website www.usmint.gov for updates or call 215-408-0112 or 215-408-0230 for tour and store information. ■