Where’s our money made?

Money. It affects many aspects of our life – we save it for vacations, car payments, education, housing, retirement. Despite our fascination and concerns with money, we rarely stop and think of the history, how it came to be in this country, how it is made, and controlled.

Mints are located across the United States and provide the nation with currency. The Philadelphia Mint is one of the most famous of these locations and has a rich history to explore.

The Philadelphia Mint has minted coins since the federal government first authorized the process in 1792. Beginning after the Revolutionary War, the majority of coins in circulation in the United States were foreign. This made transactions difficult and chaotic, so to create an American coinage system, Congress passed the Coinage Act in 1792. This legislation authorized the creation of a mint in the capital city, which at the time was Philadelphia.

The first Philadelphia Mint, finished in 1792, operated in a multi-building facility and produced eight different coins and four dollars. However, the mint was dependent on workers and horses, which caused production to be slow and inefficient. As the nation grew, the demand for coins increased, resulting in the need for a new mint. Consequently, in 1833 the mint moved to a new, larger building.

The second Philadelphia mint increased the output of coins using advanced metal-refining methods and steam-powered coin presses. Following the gold rush of the 1830s and 1840s, the Philadelphia mint converted large quantities of newfound gold into circulating gold coins. To further prevent a coin shortage, the United States government established several other mints across the country.

The Philadelphia Mint, however, still provided the biggest output of coins for the nation. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the United States also began to mint coins for dozens of other countries, such as Panama, the Philippines, and Cuba. However, once again the size of the second Philadelphia mint hindered its production capabilities. To increase output and improve efficiency, the mint moved in 1901 to an even larger facility.

Located centrally in town, the third Philadelphia mint had an ideal location for receiving raw supplies and transporting finished coins. The massive building occupied nearly a full city block. This quickly allowed the mint to become the most productive manufacturing facility in the world and also ensured that the nation’s coin supply remained high.

It was during this time that the mint ceased production of gold coins with the abandonment of the gold standard. During the Second World War, the mint produced coins with reduced quantities of nickel and copper to contribute to the war effort. At the end of 1964, the mint ended the production of circulating silver coins as the federal government went off the silver standard.

Despite the impressive productivity of the third Philadelphia mint, over time its equipment became outdated and its production processes grew increasingly inefficient, yet again. Therefore in 1969, the Philadelphia mint moved once again to a larger, more technologically advanced facility located on Independence Hall.

The fourth Philadelphia mint has been the United States’ premiere producer of circulating coins and one of the most productive manufacturing facilities in the city; the mint is capable of producing more than one million coins within a twenty-four hour period. The mint also began to add a small letter “P” on every coin circulated. The mint is still in use today and its coins can be found in your pockets and purses.