Paper Money

Downtown Denver money museum: Guest Commentary

Guest Commentary from July 25, 2016, issue of Coin World:

When traveling to Colorado, the numismatic minded individual naturally turns initial attention to Colorado Springs, home of the American Numismatic Association. The next likely Colorado destination would take you north, to the Mile High City, where the Denver Mint awaits one who was savvy enough to reserve a tour in advance.

But the fun doesn’t end there! A lesser-known numi-destination awaits in Denver — “The Money Museum, a billion dollar experience,” resides within the Denver Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. The exhibit titled “American Currency — History Through Money” offers a plethora of treats for the hungry numismatic explorer. Currency is featured in this “through-the-years” exhibit, but also displayed is a bit of coinage interspersed to fill in the gaps.

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The absolutely free tour begins with required identification, followed by metal detection, airport security style. (This is a Federal Reserve Bank, after all.) Once through the main entrance, you are greeted by a vintage-safe-turned-display-case. Therein you will see a Mint bag of nickels, a stack of gold bars, and instructions how to log in to the optional cellphone audio guide. If the audio guide isn’t your cup of tea, the exhibit brochure/guide does a fine job helping you walk along with numbered explanations that correspond with the display. 

The brochure begins: “The history of banking in the United States can be seen through its currency. The evolution of currency reflected in this exhibit demonstrates the needs of a rapidly expanding nation struggling to establish a reliable monetary and banking system. Creating trust in paper notes has been an enduring theme in the history of American banking and currency.” The text then gives a paragraph or two under each of 18 numbered titles that correspond with the actual notes on display. Title examples include: Continental Currency 1775–1790, Demand Notes 1861–1917, National Bank Notes 1863–1928, Confederate Currency 1861–1864, Federal Reserve Bank Notes 1913–1935, and Misprinted Currency.

Once through the currency history lesson, the walls and floor-standing kiosks are filled with family friendly interactive fun. Kids can make rubbings of classic or whimsical currency devices. Jay the Eagle walks kids through a touch screen activity to create their own digital currency. (Why is his name Jay? Because “J” is the letter on the Federal Reserve seal corresponding to Kansas City.) The adjacent wall panel explains how to detect certain counterfeit $20 notes. Kids can also receive Jay the Eagle’s Fun Guide, a coloring, game, and brain teasing puzzle book to test their money knowledge. 

Before you exit, you are enticed to prove what you have learned by participating in a challenging 16-question museum treasure hunt. 

When you complete your tour, don’t forget your complimentary $165 bag of shredded currency. 

I recommend this fun way to spend a numismatic hour or two in downtown Denver … not at the Mint.

Jeff Reichenberger is editor of NOW News, the official journal of the Numismatists of Wisconsin (

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