After reserving my ticket 90 minutes in advance, I stopped to wait at a restaurant kitty-corner across the street. The music playing there?
I got a little change in my pocket goin’ jing-a-ling-a-ling…
It was appropriate because I was across the street from the Denver Mint. The massive two-story building that encompasses the the entire block at Colfax and Cherokee began churning out coins in 1906. This month alone, The Denver Mint will fill an order for more than 500 million coins – 319 million pennies, 109 million nickels, 76 million dimes and 76 million quarters.
The fact was, I needed a little more change in my pocket in order to feed the parking meter.
At the gift shop, I was directed to a change machine, and after purchasing my quarters, the clerk told me, “Those quarters were just minted yesterday, and you’re the first person to touch that machine.” In essence, I may have been the first person to have the newest America the Beautiful series featuring Michigan’s Pictured Rock National Park.
On the tour, I watched a portion of today’s 17 million pennies go through various production stages. I was given a sample of a struck and unstruck penny. Tom the Tour Guide assured me the mint wasn’t losing money on the tours. One-cent pieces cost 1.8 cents to make. Nickels cost 6.6 cents. But dimes cost just 3.3 cents to make, and quarters are only 8.3 cents. The U.S. Mint turned a healthy profit last year.
Then, there was the story of Orville Harrington, who once worked at the Denver Mint in its early days. Over a span of a few months, he smuggled 56 gold bars out of the mint. He was caught. He served three and an half years of a 10-year prison sentence, with time off for providing a really good story.