Collectors planning a visit to the Philadelphia Mint will be
treated to a newly renovated, and still free, self-guided tour that
traces the U.S. Mint’s 220-year coinage history from 1792 to the present.
The tour area and visitors’ center was reopened to the public July
3 after a more than six-month, $3.9 million renovation executed by
Quatrefoil of Laurel, Md. The tour includes exhibits showcasing an
assemblage of the facility’s “heritage assets” of historical
artifacts, tracing design, engraving and production techniques.
Visitors may also experience a view, from 40 feet above, of the
production floor of the Philadelphia Mint, where they can watch coins
being struck for circulation. Touch pads positioned in front of the
viewing windows allow visitors to access still images and video clips
of close-up operations as though they were right on the production floor.
The renovations were completed in advance of the Aug. 7 to 11
American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Philadelphia.
Tour hours were extended on the show dates to allow more show visitors
to take the Mint tour.
The general footprint of the areas for the tour and exhibits
remains the same as before the renovation.
The lobby of the Fourth Philadelphia Mint has mounted on its walls
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 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.
All of the glass panels underwent conservation and cleaning,
according to Abbie Chessler, Quatrefoil’s co-founding partner and head
Also on the first-floor, off the lobby, but underneath the
second-floor mezzanine exhibit area, is the sales center and 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 Buffalo, N.Y.-based Thinking
Outside the Square, found online at www.thinkoutsidethesquare.com/.
The mezzanine’s David Rittenhouse Theater, named after the U.S.
Mint’s first director, invites visitors to view a video chronicling
the establishment of the U.S. Mint and the nation’s monetary system
through the passage of the Mint Act of April 2, 1792.
Mezzanine displays include the stuffed American bald eagle, Peter,
who lived at the Philadelphia Mint circa 1830 to 1836 and was let out
each night to fly around the city of Philadelphia. Peter died when one
of his wings was irreparably damaged after being caught in the
flywheel of a coinage press on which he had perched.
Peter is said to have been Engraver Christian Gobrecht’s model for
the silver dollars from 1836 through 1839.
On the wall next to the eagle exhibit are two paintings: the 1914
painting Ye Olde Mint by Edwin Lamasure Jr., representing his
conception of the first Mint facility in 1792; and John Ward
Dunsmore’s 1915 artwork supposedly depicting George Washington, his
wife, Martha, and other federal officials, including Rittenhouse,
inspecting a tray of coins held by Henry Voigt, first chief coiner and superintendent.
Among the enclosed exhibits on view in the new tour area are the
models used for the 1907 gold coinage designed by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
Also on view is a display of wooden boxes from the New York Assay
Office used for shipping bullion. The boxes are part of an exhibit
outlining the history of the Fort Knox Bullion Depository in Kentucky,
where more than 5,000 tons of the nation’s gold reserves are stored.
The walls and floor space of the corridors of the extensive
third-floor gallery contribute to an understanding, through
interactive exhibits, of how coins and medals are made.
For coin production, the exhibits trace the operations from design
conception and execution (the U.S. Mint’s engraving staff is based at
the Philadelphia Mint, augmented by outside artists from the Mint’s
Artistic Infusion Program); to die making, blanking, annealing and
upsetting (softening through heat and then forming a raised rim),
striking, inspection and bagging.
Examples of blanks, dies, models and struck coins are among the
historic artifacts on display in fixed exhibits.
Also displayed is the original Janvier reducing lathe from 1907,
first used in the die-making process for the Saint-Gaudens gold
coinage. The Janvier reducing lathes were mothballed less than six
years ago when digital sculpturing and die production technology were
introduced at the U.S. Mint.
Tom Jurkowsky, director of the U.S. Mint’s Office of Public
Affairs, said it is hoped that if additional funds become available,
more exhibits can be added to the public tour.
More than 200 historical Mint artifacts are currently on display.
For tour information, visit www.usmint.gov/mint_tours/
or call 215-408-0112. The gift shop’s telephone number is