The Denver Mint is a fascinating destination where visitors can witness the production of thousands of freshly minted coins that circulate in the American economy.
As one of the few US Mint facilities offering tours, it provides an opportunity to explore the history and process of coin production firsthand.
With its rich architectural heritage and extensive collection of historic and collectible coins, the Denver Mint offers a unique and memorable experience for coin enthusiasts and curious visitors alike.
However, securing tour tickets may require some planning and patience and it’s not always so easy, so in this article I will tell you everything you need to know in order to have a memorable visit to the Denver Mint.
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What is the Denver Mint?
The US Mint is a federal agency responsible for producing and circulating coins in the United States. The Denver Mint is one of several production facilities operated by the US Mint, alongside those in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and West Point. (Denver and Philadelphia are the only sites offering tours.)
The US Mint Denver primarily focuses on the production of circulating coins, including pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and half-dollars. It also produces uncirculated collector sets, commemorative coins, and coin dies.
The Denver Mint has a rich history, having been around as an assay office since the Colorado Gold Rush days in the 1860s. But it wasn’t until 1906 that the Denver Mint had its first coin struck, soon minting about 2.1 million gold and silver coins in one year.
Today, it makes billions of coins per year and continues to be an essential component of the US coinage system.
How to tour the Denver Mint
When it comes to visiting the Denver Mint, it’s worth knowing that it differs from a typical museum experience where you simply walk up, enter the building, and immediately immerse yourself in the sights.
You cannot purchase tickets online for your Denver Mint visit and instead you need to snag these in person.
Tour tickets can be obtained from the Tour Information Window located on Cherokee Street, situated between Colfax Avenue and West 14th Avenue. Once you get close to the area, you’ll see a lot of signs pointing you towards the Mint so it’s really hard to miss.
The window opens at 7 a.m. from Monday to Thursday (excluding federal holidays), and it will continue to operate until all tickets have been distributed.
As for the tour schedule, tours are offered Monday through Thursday (excluding observed federal holidays) at 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3:30 p.m.
However, please take note: tour schedules and availability fluctuate daily. There may be occasions when tours are unavailable, and cancellations may occur without prior notice.
Tours will also be closed on the following days:
- May 29, 2023
- June 19, 2023
- July 4, 2023
- September 4, 2023
- October 9, 2023
- November 9, 2023
- December 25, 2023
Tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis and are limited to 5 per person. Also, all visitors must be 7 years and older.
Because these are issued on a first come, first serve basis, you really want to arrive there early to secure your tickets.
Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, it gets very busy here and it can become more difficult to secure tickets which is why a lot of people arrive extra early. We were told stories of people essentially camping out on the street!
The busiest days of the week are Monday and Thursday because it’s the first and last day available for the tours so if you’re trying to make it easier on yourself Tuesday and Wednesday may be the best days to go.
If you arrive in the morning during the peak times, there will likely be a line forming outside of the ticket gate and because there are only 20 (sometimes 23) slots available per tour, this means that some people may be turned away.
When it gets really busy, an agent will walk down the line taking down the preferred tour times of each visitor so that they can quickly figure out when they are at capacity.
At some point, they may have to turn people away so it’s good to have a back up plan such as visiting the Colorado State Capitol and doing a tour there (which is also free), strolling around Civic Center Park, or checking out one of the many awesome museums in the area.
By the way, this being a federal building containing billions of dollars, they are pretty strict about what you can bring and not bring in. Here are the items that are prohibited and permitted during your visit to the Denver Mint:
- Purses, bags, backpacks
- Food and drink
- Lighters and matches
- Weapons including pocket knives
- Personal protective devices
- Palm-sized wallet that fits in pocket
- Powered off cameras/ cell phones
- Umbrellas, walkers, wheelchairs
- Empty water bottles
- Medical necessities
Where should you park and how much time do you need?
The tour is 45 minutes but you need to arrive there 30 minutes prior to your scheduled tour so you will be looking at at least one hour and 15 minutes of total time dedicated to the tour.
You also will likely want to visit the gift shop afterwards so depending on your interest, that could take you another 15 minutes or more to check out.
This means that you probably want to give yourself about 90 minutes of parking at a minimum.
But if you plan on arriving before the Mint opens as we did, you may want to give yourself two hours of parking which is the maximum amount the meters allow on the street.
Anytime we venture to Downtown Denver in this area we simply park at the Cultural Center Complex Garage. We gave ourselves four hours of parking which was plenty of time and that gave us additional time to explore some of the area near Civic Center Park.
Experiencing the Denver Mint
We arrived at 6:30 AM and were the first people in line so we knew we would be guaranteed a spot on the earliest slot beginning at 8 AM.
But this meant that we would have to be waiting around for about 30 minutes which wasn’t bad because the weather was okay but in other cases you may be standing outside in bad weather.
They do allow you to bring umbrellas so you could always bring one of those but make sure to keep an eye on the weather if you plan on arriving early.
There was an attendant outside who was chatting it up with us and other visitors while we waited for the ticket gate to open up. If you have any questions this is a good time to get some clarification but keep in mind your tour guide will have a lot of information to offer later on.
At 7 AM, the gates were opened and we were able to approach the ticket booth where we were issued two separate tickets with our tour information stamped on.
On your tickets, you’ll be reminded of the rules for visiting which are pretty strict so don’t forget about them!
Once we were given our tickets we then had 30 minutes to kill. One thing you can do to pass some time is to stroll around the block.
Be sure to check out the front of the Denver Mint building (facing Colfax) which has a really impressive entrance.
You can’t go in past the gate but if you could enter, you’d be astonished by the beauty of the Tennessee marble window surrounds and red and white marble from Vermont which is used for the walls of the interior.
It also boasts beautiful brass and stained glass chandeliers manufactured from Manhattan along with Vincent Aderente murals.
While you can’t check out the interior, you can still snap a pretty good photo of the exterior from the sidewalk or the steps. It’s hard not to be impressed by the Gothic renaissance architecture as this building was modeled after the Medici Ricciardi Palace in Florence, Italy.
It’s an interesting building because when viewed from the street it appears to only be two stories high but it’s actually a five story building. Take note of the beautiful stone exterior which is granite sourced from Arkins Quarry, west of Loveland, Colorado.
You can also just walk around the block to get a sense of how big the Denver Mint facility is.
Throughout the years, additional sections have been added to meet the growing demands for space.
However, like the ups and downs of financial markets, the expansion process hasn’t always followed a seamless trajectory.
Not all of the additions met the aesthetic preferences of the public, leading to discontent among Denver residents. Lots of outcry and debate went down. At one juncture, concerns arose regarding the capacity of the existing facilities, raising serious deliberations about relocating to Littleton, just outside Denver. Of course, this was blasphemy to some locals.
As you walk around and try to piece together the new sections, you might encounter some delivery trucks along the way. It’s best to avoid getting in their way, naturally.
If you want to go beyond the block, you could venture a little bit downtown or just sit around by the tour entrance gate which is just down the sidewalk from where you are issued your ticket. Just don’t venture too far though because they will not admit to you if you are late.
At 7:30 AM a friendly federal police officer lined us up along the railing and discussed everything we needed to know about the tour.
In essence, they reiterated the prohibited items, such as weapons, bags, food and drink, and because this is Colorado they emphasized that you should avoid bringing items inside that are allowed at the state level but not at the federal level (i.e., marijuana).
Another big thing that you have to do is to completely power off your cell phone.
You can’t have it on anywhere inside of the facility and you’re also not allowed to take photos of any kind. Kind of a bummer especially for a travel blogger like myself but obviously understandable given the potential security issues involved.
Then it was time to go through security which is your typical walk through metal detector experience.
Their metal detectors are programmed to be extra sensitive, so if you have bulky jewelry items that sometimes set off metal detectors at the airport, there is a high chance that those will go off here.
After passing through security, you’ll find a two-level museum where you can explore numerous exhibits that delve into the history of currency worldwide.
It’s pretty interesting to see how civilizations have utilized different materials to exchange goods such as spices, jewels, etc. Who knew you once could pay taxes with peppercorn?
This is also where we received our complementary souvenir — an uncirculated penny and accompanying blank! Pretty cool.
They also have bathrooms and a water fountain inside here (with water bottle refill station).
Once you get done exploring you can have a seat on one of the benches in the hallway on the second floor which is where the experience is going to begin.
They will play a short introduction video that gives you a good overview of the different US Mint facilities around the country. From the fortified stronghold of Fort Knox, where unimaginable treasures are safeguarded, to the prestigious grounds of West Point, learn about the different areas each location specializes in.
Once you have completed the video, it is time to proceed and enter the facility. Inside, you will have the opportunity to observe the bustling activity of the minting process through expansive windows.
Fun fact: The Denver Mint makes an appearance in the 1993 Sylvester Stallone film “Cliffhanger.”
Since this is a factory, it’s somewhat unpredictable and it’s possible that you won’t see any coins getting minted but it sounds like that would be very rare.
In our case, we saw droves of coins getting minted including jackpots of pennies and dimes.
These were coming out at an incredibly fast pace which makes sense considering that the Denver Mint has a production capacity of more than 50 million coins a day!
How do you know if your coins from the Denver Mint? Look for the “D” as seen below on the quarter.
As you watch freshly minted coins make their way through the factory conveyor belts en route to counting machines, you can learn about the entire minting process including: blanking, annealing, upsetting, striking, and waffling.
There’s actually a lot of jargon to digest but it’s a fun learning experience and really cool to makes sense of all of the rhythmic machine movements you’re witnessing below you in the factory.
In addition to watching the pressing process, you’ll be able to check out some interesting artifacts that take you through the history of minting like the Millionaire Calculating Machine used at the Denver Mint in the early 1900s to calculate deposits of gold and silver.
After getting down the basics of the minting process, we then moved along into an area focused on quarters.
I was always vaguely aware of the special quarters that were issued over the past couple of decades but our visit to the mint helped me to get a clearer picture and honestly created some interest in collecting these.
We were able to get a good overview of the State Quarters Program (1999 to 2008), America the Beautiful Quarters Program (2010 to 2021), and the new American Women Quarters which will feature five new coins every year through 2025.
This new collection will feature the lives of extraordinary woman throughout the US history like Eleanor Roosevelt and Bessie Coleman, the first African American and first Native American woman licensed pilot.
Viewing a wide range of well-preserved coins up close, their pristine condition gleaming brightly, sparked a true sense of appreciation within me. I definitely gained a deeper understanding of the immense effort and skill required to create these miniature masterpieces.
(The artists create these at the Philadelphia Mint which is just another reason why it would be worth visiting the one on the East Coast.)
Another highlight is being able to see over $2 million in gold bars with your own eyes although don’t expect to get too close. And don’t get any ideas. The Denver Mint has its own intriguing history involving an attempted gold smuggling incident, which you’ll learn all about during the tour.
What’s truly mind-boggling is that the gleaming gold you lay your eyes on is just the mere tip of the colossal gilded iceberg. Prepare to be amazed as your guide reveals the staggering amount of gold that is securely guarded by the Mint. It’s like a Rocky Mountain Gringotts down there.
In between checking out collections of uncirculated coins, unique exhibits, and watching thousands of dollars worth of coins prepare to enter the world’s largest economy, your tour guide will be filling you in on a lot of interesting details about the Mint’s history and will also be fielding questions from guests like a pro.
Our tour guide, Michael, was also very knowledgeable and fun and gave us a whole lot of insight!
After we wrapped up the tour, we decided to check out the gift shop which I would highly recommend.
If you are a coin collector or just getting started in coin collecting, this gift shop is going to have a lot to offer you. They had all types of novelty items and as you would expect an extensive selection of historic coins that would make for terrific gifts.
In addition to all of the collectible items, they also had a lot of the standard souvenir items you’d expect to find.
The Denver Mint is quite simply a unique experience. it’s not every day that you get to watch thousands of coins get freshly minted on the way to the American economy. While getting your ticket and admission into the Mint is not as easy as a standard tour, it’s worth the extra hassle to experience something so special.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.