Minting Perfection

      The United States Mint produces about 700 coins per minute. They have evolved from manually striking each individual coin to mass producing coins with a series of machines and processes. It is not a surprise that many would assume that the transition from manual to machined striking would increase the accuracy and quality of the coins being produced. It is true, however, that with the faster and more efficient minting processes, the search for a perfect coin is also increasingly more difficult. A true Mint State or Proof 70 coin is a true gem and highly desired.


      There are several coin grading services that certify the authenticity and the condition of coins; PCGS, NGC, and ICG. These grading services use a universally accepted grading scale to do so. This scale ranges from P1, a coin so heavily worn that the features can barely be seen and is virtually flat, to MS70, a completely flawless coin. It is a common assumption that a coin should leave the mint in MS70 condition; however a majority of the coins minted at the United States Mint are less than perfect before they even make it out of the facility. Part of this can be blamed on the new, more efficient minting processes.


      The minting process is a six step process. The first step is blanking. Blanking is when coin blanks are punched out of large strips of metal. In the second step, annealing, the blanks are run through a washer and dryer and then exposed to heat in order to soften them. The blanks are then run through a machine, called an upsetting mill, in an upright position. This is what gives coins their prominent, raised rims. The process is called “upsetting.” In the fourth step, the coins are actually struck. In this process, the blanks are run through a coining press and given the features that make them genuine United States coins. Each batch is then spot checked with a magnifying glass in the inspecting process. The final step is the counting and bagging step. The coins are dumped into a large, automatic counting machine which counts the coins and then dumps them into bags. These bags are then transported using forklifts to vaults for storage.


      The counting process is possibly the most damaging step in the minting process. The coins are not carefully handled which is why it is difficult for them to remain flawless. They are run through numerous machines and stored loosely in bags. When understanding the harsh processes that each coin endures during the minting process alone, it is amazing that perfect coins can somehow still exist. This is why these flawless coins are so highly desired. Even MS69 coins, the next grade level down from perfect, are desired by collectors. It is important that these coins maintain their constant appreciation by collectors, because it is a true mystery how, despite the odds, they remained perfect and completely free of flaws.