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The Denver Mint. Thousands of tourists visit each year and watch, fascinated, as shiny copper pennies roll off the presses. Generations of school children have toured it and Denverites have been taking out-of-town guests to the Mint for a century. They proudly show off this Florentine money palace, a gorgeous building inspired by a Medici villa.
Many locals drive by the Mint on West Colfax every day with only a vague notion of what goes on inside. Along with Philadelphia, Denver shares the task of making all of the United States' circulation coinage. Denver produces more than half of all U.S. pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half-dollars, and dollar coins. All are branded with a "D."
During its first 100 years, many changes have rocked the Mint, but it has adjusted with the times. It expanded as Denver grew from a frontier mining supply town to a major metropolitan area. It adjusted coinage demands through two world wars, the Great Depression, and eighteen U.S. presidents. It survived a robbery attempt in the gangster-happy 1920s and changed the nation's coinage in response to the silver shortage of the 1960s.
Among the coins that have rolled off its presses are the beloved Lincoln penny and the Kennedy half-dollar, honoring two assassinated presidents. The 1964 Peace Dollar, the last true solver dollar, was produced in Denver and never circulated, one of the many strange stories in this book. Susan B. Anthony dollars were the first coins to bear a woman's image. In our own time, a new series of quarters tells each state's story in the embodiment of E Pluribus Unum, or "from many, one."
The city of Denver almost lost the Mint to the suburbs during the 1970s. Tightened security in the wake of the homegrown terrorism of the Oklahoma City bombing temporarily dismayed visitors who could no longer view the gold bars. Tours were abandoned after September 11, 2001, but once again are booming and easier than ever to arrange, with phone and online reservations. . . . The grand old landmark has been spruced up and modernized. As they have for a century, Denverites run the money-making machines, mop the floors, polish the coins, and keep the country in change.
In "The Denver Mint: 100 Years of Gangsters, Gold, and Ghosts," Kimberly Field and Lisa Ray Turner will take you through the Mint's first century with a lively look at one of Denver's most enduring treasures.