Are you interested in finding out how coins and dollars are made? It’s clear that you’re one curious kid. And that’s a great trait to have. You’ll be pretty jazzed to learn that making coins and dollars is a pretty tricky process. And, you’ll impress a lot of other kids and even a few adults by learning about that process.
So kick back, relax, and learn about all the nifty things that go into manufacturing money.
How US Coins Are Made
Did you know that 12-15 billion coins are made every year? They’re made in one of four Mint production facilities spread over the US. It’s a six-step process to make coins. And as you can imagine, coins are precision-crafted, making them impossible to counterfeit.
On average, coins last 30 years until they become too old to use due to wear and tear. Wondering what makes a coin look dirty? Contrary to what it might look like, the thick layer of dirt on old coins isn’t rust. Fun fact – only iron can rust, and there are no iron coins in US circulation. Instead, it’s a type of carbon oxide that causes the shine of coins to vanish over time. You can place old coins in vinegar to restore them to their former glory.
The first step to making a coin is blanking.
Blanking is the process of cutting the shape of coins out of specially made sheets of metal. Approx 14,000 “blanks” are made per minute by machine. Pennies are the only commonly used coin that doesn’t go through the blanking process. These days, pennies cost more to make than pennies are worth. To save cost, the Mint buys blanks for pennies.
Next up is the annealing process.
Annealing makes the metal in coins easier to shape. Without the annealing process, coin blanks would break during the next few steps. To anneal, coins are heated up to 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit. Comparatively, the average stove only gets 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and the hottest place on earth is only 134 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once the coins are heated, they’re dropped in a cooling liquid called “slippery water” It’s called that because it’s been chemically treated to stop the blanks from sticking together. Each of the four Mints has its own way of separating and drying the coins after the slippery water phase is done.
The Wash & Dry
The blanks are washed, cleaned, and treated with a special chemical mix to make sure they last a long time. After that, the coins move to the fourth step.
Upsetting means the coins are given their ridged edges. It’s a pretty cool process that involves smashing the coin just a little, which causes the rim of the metal to rise. Plus, it makes coins easily transportable. Fun fact: once a blank has a rim, it’s called a planchet, but it’s still not quite a coin.
Striking involves hitting a coin with up to 540 tons of force. To give you an example of how much force that is – the average tank weighs about 60 tons. If we do 540 divided by 60, we get 9. That means it would be roughly the weight of 9 tanks to imprint a design on a coin. The result, of course, is the picture on the front and back of a coin. After that, the coins are inspected for errors.
If a coin does have an error, it’s put through a machine to distort the image on the coin and make it unusable.
Bagging and Packing
Once the striking process is done, the planchets are officially usable coins. Dimes and quarters are counted and weighed and then prepared for shipping. Pennies and dimes are not counted by are still bagged for shipping.
And eventually, some of those bagged and packed coins end up in your pocket, where you’ll exchange them for goods and services.
How US Bills Are Made
As you may know, every country has its own money. British people use pounds, Chinese people use yen, etc. In different countries, money is worth different amounts. For example, a US dollar could be worth enough to buy food in some countries because of how much the dollar is worth there. That’s called global economics.
Now here’s the thing, if someone other than the US could make US money, it would lower the dollar’s value and potentially change the values of money everywhere. The same is true for other countries.
Because of that, and a few other reasons, a lot of effort goes into designing and making paper monies. And when we say a lot of effort, we mean it. From design to printing, every step is impossible for someone else to copy exactly.
The paper that money is printed on is made specifically for that purpose. No one else can have or get that paper. But what happens once the Mint has the ink and paper to make new money? Well, the first step is offset printing.
Offset printing is used to add another layer of security to paper monies. While printing, the colors are blended, and threads of red are mixed in. Then massive machines are used to stamp the money with the desired denomination. Approx 10,000 are made each hour.
Once the ink and paper are prepared, a machine is used to press the picture deep into the ink. Roughly 20 tons of pressure is used for this stage. It takes up to 72 hours for bills to dry and settle after plate printing.
Offline Currency Inspection
The inspection process involves a highly advanced computer weighing and analyzing all aspects of the bill. Bills are then separated into usable and unusable.
Letter Press Printing
Seals, serial numbers, and other identifiers are printed onto the bill in this final phase. These identifiers count as another layer of security against counterfeiters. There are two types of letterpress machines; COPE/PAK and LEPE. These massive machines are state of the art.
Books and Resources to Learn More About How US Currency Is Made
Want to learn more about the ins and outs of US currency? Here are some books you should check out. Check out our entire kids’ money book library for more great reads!
All About Money by Margarita Brown
All About Money covers everything from the history of money to how it impacts the world around you. It comes complete with really fun exercises and is full of fun facts and tidbits. And if you prefer to browse the internet, it has options and links to guide you to the best info the world wide web offers.
Biography of the Dollar by Craig Karmin
Biography of the Dollar teaches you why the US dollar is one of the most sought currencies globally. And how the global economy works. There’s no end to how money affects the world, and this book helps you exactly why.
What is Money by Kelly Lee
What Is Money tackles the history of money but also covers some pretty helpful ways it can be used. It’s made for younger kids, and it’s a quick read. You should definitely check it out if you want a new spin on old information.