It’s 2:23pm and two tourists stand outside a non-descript building in Philadelphia, happily photographing each other with their new collectible coins in hand. On this gorgeous fall day there are plenty of visitors (mostly foreign ones) shuffling around one of the most uninspiring tourist attractions on planet earth: the U.S. Mint.

Yes, even on a day the U.S. Government shuts down, there is still money being made. Coins, but whatever, ya know, yay.

Tours are self-guided, the only requirement for entrance is a photo ID and a walk through a metal detector. There are warnings and signs telling you that. “Photography, smoking, eating and drinking are prohibited.”

I did not smoke or eat anything but here are some photos because ANARCHY:


One of the employees, when asked if the Mint was open today, joked (I think) and said yes of course we are, “we’re the ones making all the money!” (Well, their Denver cohorts are, too.)

Meanwhile in DC at the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing–or as the URL goes moneyfactory.gov–can’t open to print the paper stuff that really counts.

The tour takes you up two levels where you get to see the seven steps of coin-making.


It’s a fairly automated process but you can spot spilled coins all over the factory floors (from my perch nickels seemed to be the biggest jumper). Their final destination is the Federal Reserve, which, luckily for the coins and all of us, is still open since it’s a self-funded government institution.

After I left, I called and asked why the U.S. Mint prohibited civilians from snapping great photos during the exciting tour. Security? Terrorism? “Naw,” the woman said. “If people take photos and they end up on the internet then why would people from all over the world come and see the tour?”

For my penance, I instead decided to visit the gift shop adjacent to the metal detectors and buy some lovely gifts.

This is what $43.67 scored me on shutdown day.


Coins rule everything around me.

(Photos: Amy K. Nelson/ANIMALNewYork)