The Minting Process

How Are Coins Made?


    Have you ever wondered how they make that quarter you used to buy that coffee at Tim Hortons? Have you ever thought about what coins are made off? How expensive is it to mint coins? These are questions that many people ask. The modern minting process is interesting and astounding.


    The Modern Minting Process


       The minting process consists of 10 steps. It starts with the large coil of metal that is fed into the blanking press. The blanking press is like a cookie cutter for coins when the metal sheets go in a large steel press that has 625 circles that are the size of the desired size and denomination. The leftover metal is sent to a furnace to be recycled, the mint employees have dubbed these “bow ties” because they look like small bow ties (Shown below). It then heads to the annealing furnace where they are heated to make them soft for the striking process and also it hardens the planchets so they hold up in circulation better. It then goes to the quench tank. Then through the whirl away. It continues through a washer and dryer. After all of this cleaning it is sent to the upsetting mill which gives the blank its edge and becomes a planchet. The upsetting mill takes a blank and puts it in a roller that rolls up the edge and turns it into a planchet ( diagram found below). After this are planchets ready to strike. They are struck by what we call a die. A die is created by what is called a hub. A hub  is created by a Janvier transfer reducing machine. It takes a digital or plaster engraving and etches the model into a steel blank. Then they strike another piece of steel and that creates a master die. The master die makes the working hub that makes the final die or the working die. The presses that most mints use is a horizontal press. Coins are fed in horizontally with a feeder finger and are held in place by collar dies. Horizontal presses can make 1 million coins in 20 minutes.  They then go through a quality control process that sorts out coins with defects and sends them to the waffling machine which defaces them and sends them to be recycled ( example shown below). Coins that pass the test go through a counting machine and are sent by armored truck to federal reserves. Then they are taken to banks and then go into normal commerce for the citizens’ use. 

What happens if something goes wrong in the minting process?


      When something goes wrong that is what we call a mint error. But you’re probably thinking that they have quality control and all errors should be waffled. But that isn’t perfect. In fact many mint errors escape the mint. 

      There are three different types of mint errors: planchet, die, and striking errors or P-D-S for short. Planchet errors occur during the planchet making process.  Things that can occur are clipped planchets, which is when the blanks are being punched out it could be misaligned and clips a part of the planchet off ( photo below). Another error that can occur is missing edge lettering. This is referring to three different types of coins: the presidential dollars, ( 2007-present) native American dollars, (2009-present) and invitation dollars (2018-present). All of these coins have edge lettering and there is a possibility that they could be missing their lettering. The lettering is put on when they go through the upsetting mill. When they forget to put the engraving in the upsetting mill it will create coins with no edge lettering. The last major error is a wrong planchet. A wrong planchet is when a coin is struck on a wrong planchet. A wrong planchet occurs when a planchet of a different denomination gets stuck in a hopper. Let’s say it gets loose and goes into the striking chamber and gets struck by the wrong die, these are very rare and sought after ( photo below)There are more planchet errors, but they are so minor they aren’t worth the hassle to look for. The next place an error can occur is during the die making process. When they make the dies the hub strikes it twice. If the hub is misaligned it will put a double image on the die which will put a double image on the coin, this is what we call a double die. Double dies can be so subtle that you need 50x magnification to see them. But some are so major that you can see it with the naked eye (see below). Double dies are some of the more sought after errors. The last place this can occur is during the striking process. This is also the place where the most amount of errors occur and has the most variety of different errors. Off center strikes occur when the planchet goes into the striking chamber misaligned and is struck off center( photo below). It is possible that it can be struck twice which is very rare. Another one is a strike through. A strike through is when a foreign object gets into the striking chamber and the coin is struck through the object. Most of the time the object falls out ( photo below). But on rare occasions it stays on the coin. One error that is fun to look at is a misaligned die. A misaligned die is when one of the dies is misaligned. On one side it is perfectly aligned, but the other side is not ( photo below).  One of the most major errors is a brockeage error. A brockeage occurs when a coin gets stuck to one of the dies and when the next planchet enters the opposite side will strike a negative image of the other side of the coin ( photo below). A subtype of a brockage is a die cap . A die cap is when more and more coins get stuck together and it squeezes up and creates what looks like a bottle cap (photo below). Last but not least are mated pairs. Mated pairs are when a brokerage occurs and the coins separate. If you find these two coins together this is what we call a mated pair. Mated pairs are some of the most expensive errors on the market. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack.


What is Numismatics?


     Numismatics is the study or collection of coins, paper money, tokens, and medals.

    The definition of coins is a piece of metal that has monetary value and is issued by a government or political group. Paper money is the same thing but is made of paper, polymer, or fabric. Tokens are coins with no monetary value and are not issued by a government. Tokens are often used as a substitute for coins in times of a bad economy and when the mint is not able to mint coins. Tokens can be used for more things like advertising or celebrating something. Medals are high relief tokens that are much larger and were first engraved by hand. Today they are struck by dies. Medals are mostly only used as commertives or trophies. 


      What we’ve talked about today all goes under the word numismatics. Numismatics is one of the most rewarding hobbies there is. The people you will meet will bring you in with open arms. It gives you something to learn about and cherish. Numismatics can stay alive in a family for generations and gives you a way to bond with your family members in a way that is priceless. If you work hard at it you can even make a business out of it. I hope you become an enthusiastic Numismatist like myself. Happy Collecting! 🙂

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