If you have some chocolate coins left over from Saint Patrick’s Day, you can put them to good use by celebrating another special occasion—the 221st birthday of the United States Mint.
The U.S. Mint was officially established through the Coinage Act of April 2, 1792, and it currently has facilities in Philadelphia—right across the street from the National Constitution Center—and in Washington, D.C.; Denver; San Francisco; Fort Knox, Ky.; and West Point, N.Y. In fact, the original U.S. Mint building in Philadelphia was the first federal building erected under the Constitution.
Here are a few other fun facts about the Center’s numismatic neighbor:
· The first coins created by the U.S. Mint, called “half dimes,” are believed to be made from silverware provided by George and Martha Washington. (The first circulating coins, however, were made of copper.)
· The first U.S. commemorative coin was made in 1892 and featured Christopher Columbus.
· During World War II, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were secretly stored in the vaults of the U.S. Bullion Depository at Fort Knox.
· Ever notice the little letters—“S,” “D,” “P,” or “W”—on the heads side of the coin? (On quarters, for example, it’s placed under the phrase “In God We Trust.”) These letters indicate the facility where a coin was minted—San Francisco, Denver, Philadelphia, or Washington, D.C.
· The Coinage Act that led to the establishment of the U.S. Mint gave specific instructions for the designs of each coin, stating that on each coin should be “an impression emblematic of liberty.”
The Philadelphia Mint is open for public tours Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.