As a collector and student of United States coins, I love all the U.S. Mints, but I’m especially fond of the Philadelphia Mints. I say “mints” (plural) because there have been four of them in Philadelphia since the first United States Mint was established in the City of Brotherly Love in 1792. My first tour of a United States Mint facility occurred some two centuries later in Philadelphia, in 1995. And it’s the destination of my nearly annual pilgrimages going on years now.
Having spent much time in the Philadelphia area, I can tell you this: it’s truly the heart of U.S. numismatics and a living museum of American history. Besides, Philadelphia is the home of the fictional Sylvester Stallone boxing hero “Rocky Balboa,” the capital of some very real cheesesteak hoagies, and then there’s Wawa… And if you’ve got to look up what “Wawa” is, you probably don’t know jawn about Philly.
What many numismatists do know about Philadelphia is that it’s where Founding Father Ben Franklin spent most of his life and it’s the place where one can still see the famous Liberty Bell and Independence Hall – all subjects portrayed on United States coinage. What’s more, all (including the grave of Franklin) are within mere steps of the United States Mint in Philadelphia.
Benjamin Franklin and the Liberty Bell are two Philadelphia icons sharing the same coin that is aptly known as the Franklin Half Dollar, struck 1948 through 1963. Image is courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click image to enlarge.
The Philadelphia Mint has operated at four locations, with the first located near the corner of Seventh Street and Arch Street – just two blocks from the current location of the U.S. Mint. This first U.S. Mint facility consisted of a cramped complex of three buildings and called this location home from 1792 through 1833, when a second, more modern facility was opened at the northwest corner of Chestnut Street and Juniper Street – today the very heart of Center City Philadelphia and a spot now occupied by the 18-story Widener Building.
The U.S. Mint vacated the second location in Philadelphia by 1901 to move into a sprawling facility at 1700 Spring Garden Street. This stately building operated as the third Philadelphia Mint until 1969 and today serves as the home of the Community College of Philadelphia. The fourth and current United States Mint building at 151 N. Independent Mall E was formally dedicated in 1969 and is the largest minting facility in the entire world.
The Philadelphia Mint has been offering public tours since the 19th century, and today the mint is one of the top tourist destinations in Philly. Tours are free and permit visitors to view minting operations from a windowed gallery floating high above the busy production floor. Along the way, tourists are educated about each step of the minting process and are aided by way of interactive kiosks and audio-video presentations.
A typical self-guided tour of the Philadelphia Mint can last about an hour, and during that time a visitor may witness the birth of up to 1.8 million coins! Extrapolating that figure a little further, the Philadelphia Mint has the capacity to strike up to 32 million coins per day and produces around 13.5 billion coins every year. And while many who pay a visit to the Philadelphia Mint stop by to see how coins are made (sorry, there are no free samples!), don’t forget to check out the history museum on the mezzanine level… It’s chock full of artifacts, relics, and photos tracing back to the first Philadelphia Mint. You’ll also get to meet Peter, the Mint Eagle.
All escalators and elevators lead to the United States Mint gift shop downstairs, and that’s where new collectors and seasoned collectors – along with PCGS Collectors Club and Set Registry members, of course – can pick up the latest U.S. Mint offerings for submission to PCGS. And the gift shop at the Philadelphia Mint isn’t limited to offering just coins and medals. You’ll find T-shirts, plush toys, and even refrigerator magnets to ensure you won’t forget your trip to the nation’s “parent” mint.
Enjoy your adventure to the Philadelphia Mint, and remember this paramount local rule: cheesesteaks and ketchup don’t mix!