Ever since I visited the Bureau of Engraving in Washington, DC when I was 9 years old, I’ve wanted to visit the US Mint in Philadelphia. But it’s never quite worked. No one really wanted to take a trip to Philadelphia, and even I couldn’t come up with a good reason to do it when we could be visiting some far-flung wilderness instead. So when we suddenly found ourselves looking for something to do in the not-too-far-from-northern-New-Jersey area, I immediately thought of the Mint. It would be a bit of a drive, but, hey, we could see some historical stuff at the same time (Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and Franklin Court are all well within walking distance of the Mint). And we all enjoyed the Mint so much, we stayed over 2 hours… more time than we’d planned, but that’s ok 🙂
First, there might be a line in front of the Mint. The line was really only long for us because a school group had gone in a few minutes before. It’s not the Mint that they don’t want overrun; it’s that it takes time to go through the security check, so checking in an entire school group, then taking them on a tour, takes time. So we and about two dozen other people stood outside for 15 minutes or so while they got through. The check itself isn’t too bad; it’s mostly like going through airport security. Bags, wallets, cell phones, etc. are placed on the belt, and you walk through a metal detector.
So what exactly is allowed into the Mint?
Are cameras allowed in the Mint? You’re not allowed to take pictures. Period. Final. The End. But apparently that doesn’t stop you from bringing your camera in. I saw people with cameras in bags, and cameras outside of bags. We hadn’t brought ours, but I would next time just so I didn’t have to leave them in the van.
Is food allowed in the Mint? How about drinks? Technically, no food or drink is allowed. I didn’t see any, so maybe that’s actually enforced.
Can I bring my pocket knife with me? Capitol N capitol O. N.O. No knives, weapons, or sharp objects are allowed in the Mint. I’d have taken a picture of all the other things that aren’t allowed, but I couldn’t since I didn’t have a camera.
Is there anything I do need to bring with me? Yes – you’ll need to bring a government issued photo ID for all adults. We all had our driver’s licenses / permits with us, but they at least didn’t look at mine. But then again, I think I must have charmed the guards somehow unintentionally, because about the only real interest they took in me was, “Do you have a cell phone, honey? If so, you need to put it on the belt.” With most other people, they were all business and near-commanding everyone put their backpacks, purses, and cell phones on the x-ray belt.
You can also look up current restrictions on the US Mint website.
After security, you’ll find yourself in the lobby. The gift shop (with restrooms and the elevator) is to the right; otherwise, look at the few exhibits (including how many quarters, nickels, dimes, and pennies have been made this year), then take the escalators up to the middle floor with some quite fascinating history of the Mint. (Did you know that an eagle by the name of Peter used to live at the Mint? That hobos used to alter nickels to make one-of-a-kind art to sell or barter? That Franklin D. Roosevelt forced Americans to sell their gold bullion to the government? That the Peanuts cartoons predated the TV show “I Love Lucy”? (You can even touch the boxes that once carried the gold to Fort Knox – these tiny boxes weighed 400lb. when fully loaded!)
When you’re full of history, continue up the escalator / elevator, turning left at the top to go to the exhibits about how coins are made. These are completely fascinating. Once you’ve worked your way through most of these, you’ll come to the large windows that actually look down on the factory floor. How cool is that!?!
We stood, fascinated, for many, many long minutes. Most people glanced at it and moved on, but it was so cool just to watch the process, all the way from 1-ton rolls of metal all the way to bags of coins ready to go out the door. Amazing!
If something isn’t quite clear, the computer screen-like things with pictures, videos, and explanation make it all the more interesting. And even cooler, watch for the people in the videos down on the factory floor – we recognized more than one face!
Take your time and enjoy it to the full!
After snaking around to the other side of the factory floor, move on to where you can observe metals being made (y’know, like Purple Heart medals and silver dollars). These get a lot more attention than the coins do 🙂
Keep moving along, then go back down the elevator / escalators to the gift shop. The prices were a bit outside my reasonable range, but I suppose that shouldn’t have surprised me…
Walking distance: A good half mile; probably more
Time needed: You could probably rush through in a half hour or so, but I’d recommend at least an hour (the official estimate is 45 minutes). We took our good ol’ time and spent just over two hours.
Hours: 9:00am to 4:15pm (everyone must exit the facility by 4:30pm); closed most Federal holidays and when the Department of Homeland Security level is elevated to Code Orange
Fees: None! (Unless you shop the gift store, of course)
Walking Difficulty (Not difficult at all)
Road to the attraction
Price for value
Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this?
Getting to the Philadelphia Mint
From I-95 S: Take Exit 22 toward US-30 E / Independence Hall. After 0.6 miles, turn right onto Callowhill Street for 0.2 miles. Turn left onto N 4th Street for 0.4 miles, then turn right onto Arch Street. Turn right onto the first cross street onto N 5th Street / N Independence Mall E. After a mere 305 ft., take a slight right onto N 5th Street, with the Mint on the right.
From I-95 N: Take Exit 22 toward US-30 E / Independence Hall. After 0.7 miles, use the left lane to merge onto Callowhill Street for 259 ft. Turn left on N 4th Street. After 0.4 miles, turn right on Arch Street and (472 ft. later) turn right onto the first cross street (N 5th Street / N Independence Mall E). After 305 ft., take a slight right onto N 5th Street; the Mint will be on the right.
There’s no parking outside the Philadelphia Mint or really anywhere nearby. We found some parking just north of Chinatown, but there’s probably something you could pay for a whole lot closer. If you’re walking, keep following the signs on the street corners; they’ll get you to the Mint quite a bit faster than I could by telling you how to do it.
This Week’s Featured Product!
If you’re interested in the history of the Philadelphia Mint and other Mints within the US, this coffee-table type book offers interesting insight into the Mint and its history.
Wed Aug 16
Sunshine and clouds mixed. High 87F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph.
Thu Aug 17
Intervals of clouds and sunshine. High 86F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph.
Fri Aug 18
Thunderstorms likely. Potential for severe thunderstorms. High near 85F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 80%.
Sat Aug 19
Intervals of clouds and sunshine. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High 87F. Winds W at 5 to 10 mph.
Sun Aug 20
Sunny. High 88F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph.