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Production & Circulation

How many coins does the United States Mint produce and where are they made?

In 2000, the U.S. Mint produced approximately 28 billion coins for general circulation. These are made in the Mint facilities in Philadelphia, PA and Denver, CO. While most of the coins the Mint produces are for general circulation, the Mint also produces bullion coins and limited editions of coins sold to collectors as numismatic items. The Mint facilities in Philadelphia, PA; Denver, CO; San Francisco, CA; and West Point, NY produce numismatic items. Bullion coins are produced at the Mint facilities in San Francisco, CA and West Point, NY.

What is the production process for making our coins?

There are six stages to the manufacture of a U.S. Mint coin. Every coin is blanked, annealed, upset, struck, inspected, and finally, counted and bagged.

Step 1: Blanking: The U.S. Mint buys strips of metal approximately 13 inches wide and 1,500 feet long to manufacture the nickel, dime, quarter, half-dollar, and dollar. The strips come rolled in a coil. Each coil is fed through a blanking press, which punches out round discs called blanks. The leftover strip, called webbing, is shredded and recycled. To manufacture pennies, the Mint buys ready-made planchets after supplying fabricators with copper and zinc.

Step 2: Annealing, Washing and Drying: The blanks are heated in an annealing furnace to soften them. Then they are run through a washer and dryer.

Step 3: Upsetting: The blanks go through an upsetting mill. This raises a rim around their edges, turning the blanks into planchets.

Step 4: Striking: Finally, the planchets go to the coining press. Here, they are stamped with the designs and inscriptions that make them genuine United States legal tender coins.

Step 5: Inspection: A press operator uses a magnifying glass to spot-check each batch of new coins.

Step 6: Counting and Bagging: An automatic counting machine counts the coins and drops them into bags. The bags are sealed, loaded on pallets, and taken by forklifts to be stored. New coins are shipped by truck to Federal Reserve Banks. From there, the coins go to your local bank.

( The Manufacturing Process of U.S. Coins)

How do our coins enter circulation?

"The United States Mint ships its coins to Federal Reserve Banks, which are responsible for putting coins and paper money into circulation and also for withdrawing them from circulation when they are worn out.

When a private bank needs coins to provide to you and its other customers, it purchases them from a Federal Reserve Bank. Banks have checking accounts at the Federal Reserve Banks, just as you do at your bank. To buy cash for you, your bank uses special checkbook money called a “reserve balance.” The coins make their way back to the Federal Reserve Bank at some point because banks often accumulate more cash than they need for day-to-day transactions. They deposit the excess cash into their checking account at a local branch of the Federal Reserve Bank until their customers need it. Coins circulate from the Federal Reserve Bank to the private banks to you and back again until they are worn out, unfit for circulation. The Federal Reserve replaces those coins by ordering new ones from the U.S. Mint—and once those coins are minted, a new circulation cycle begins. A circulating coin generally lasts 30 years or longer.

(For more information see the Distribution page)

I think that the United States Mint should produce a commemorative coin to honor a particular person or event. How can I make that happen?

We receive many suggestions for coins to commemorate historic places, noteworthy events and prominent persons. While the Treasury Department does not oppose issuing commemorative coins, it would be physically impossible to adopt each suggestion that we receive. In addition, you may not know that the Congress must enact legislation authorizing any commemorative coins.

As a matter of background, the Treasury Department once generally objected to the issuance of commemorative coins. After approving a silver half-dollar coin honoring Booker T. Washington in 1951, Congress stopped authorizing commemorative coins for many years. In recent years, however, the Congress approved several new issues. The Treasury Department has supported several very successful commemorative coin programs, including those honoring the Olympic Games, the Statue of Liberty, and the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution.

While each commemorative coin proposal has merit, we do not comment on coin suggestions until after introduction of the legislation. This is because the Treasury Department's support of a particular program is often contingent on the absence of other programs operating simultaneously. Too many programs could exceed the capability of the United States Mint to produce the coins and, as a result, reduce the potential for success for each program.

Last Updated: 12/5/2010 9:26 AM