My kids and I took a day trip to Denver this week and visited the Denver Mint, Hammond’s Candy Factory, and the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys. I’ll share more on the latter two soon, but today, it’s the Denver Mint!
Sometime recently (late 2016 or early 2017), the Denver Mint changed from a system of online reservations for tickets to a first-come, first-served system in-person at the Mint. Their website says “tickets are in high demand and go quickly when released at 7:00 a.m”. I wasn’t sure how “quickly” they meant, so I did a little research beforehand on Yelp and TripAdvisor to see what people were saying about when they got in line for tickets. Since the first-come, first-served system is pretty new, there weren’t a lot of reviews that mentioned it but I decided to try to arrive at about 6:30 AM in order to ensure that we didn’t get up early – but not early enough – and get no tickets at all!
We did get in line at 6:30 AM, and we were about the sixth party in line. By about 6:45, the line stretched half a block, so I was glad we didn’t arrive any later. At 6:45, a representative from the Mint came out, shared what tour times were available that day and how many tickets were available. They gave us little carnival tickets and wrote the time of the tour and number of tickets we wanted, so that they could count the number of tickets that would be claimed and could tell the people at the end of the line they weren’t going to get tickets that day.
(By the way, you can pick up five tickets per person, so you can send someone there early in the morning to pick up tickets for tours later in the day – just make sure that you have one person present for every five tickets you need.)
The ticket window opened at 7:00 AM, the line quickly moved through, and they gave out the official tickets in less than 15 minutes. They put out an “All Tours Are Full Today” sign at about 7:15 AM – so yes, the tickets did go quickly!
You must be at the visitor entrance to the Mint thirty minutes before your schedule tour start time. We were thankful to get tickets for the 8 AM tour so that we could not have to come back downtown, so we spent a few minutes in the gift shop (which opens at 7 AM) and then got in line for our tour at 7:30 AM.
You will have to go through what they describe as “TSA-type” security to get into the Mint. You cannot bring anything except basically a wallet, keys, and cell phone (which must be turned off) – be sure to check out their website for the full list of prohibited items because they will turn you away if you have any of these items and you will not have time to go put them in your vehicle and come back. They also do not have storage for any items, unless you consider a trash can as storage!
Despite all of the hassle to get tickets and rules about what to bring, the staff and security were all really friendly and helpful.
Getting through security was not difficult and once inside the Mint, there are displays about money and the history of the U.S. Mint that you can walk through before your tour starts, and they gave us a free sample of money – a newly-minted penny and a penny blank. No photography is allowed inside, so unfortunately, I don’t have any interior photos.
After watching a short video, we were ushered into a room where we could look down onto the factory floor. The tour guide continued sharing information about the history and process of coin making, and we had plenty of time to observe the workings of the factory. Since it was early in the day, coin production was just starting so it was fun to see it go from no coins anywhere to pennies flowing around in all sorts of machines and conveyance machines.
Next was another room with observation areas onto two different parts of the production facility: on one side, you could see blank pennies, dimes, and nickels fall into the machines and come out stamped (they can stamp 13 coins per second!) , and on the other side they were producing collector coins. It appeared that they were having trouble with one of the machines so the coin inspectors were closely examining most of the coins that came out, which was fun to see.
The rest of the tour was pretty short, with a walk by an old safe with some gold bars in it and more history about the Mint. The tour concluded at about 8:40 and we were ready to be off on the rest of our adventures.
Here’s a few more logistical things I learned about visiting the Denver Mint:
- The number of tours may vary each day. On the day we visited, there were four tours with fifty tickets each, but from what I read they may do fewer or more tours.
- Tours can be cancelled at any time, so it doesn’t hurt to call ahead the day before to confirm that tours will be offered the next day. Be sure to do this before about 3:30 PM as the visitor information office does close pretty early in the day.
- You do not have to have a ticket to visit the gift shop.
- There are many public paid parking lots in the area, and they were wide open at 6 AM. However, we drove through the same area on our way out of town and the same parking lots were pretty full, so if you come back for a later tour, allow plenty of time to find a place to park and walk to the tour entrance (30 minutes before the tour start time!).
- If you Google “Denver Mint parking”, you’ll find several sites that show all of the paid parking lots. I was going to reserve a spot, but then decided against it as I didn’t want to accidentally park in a different lot than I reserved and get a ticket or towed.
Though we didn’t go see it, just 11-ish blocks from the Denver Mint is the (also free) Money Museum, which, according to the Mint security guard that told us about it, will give you a free bag of shredded money. You can see more about the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City Denver’s Money Museum here.
We really enjoyed our trip to the Mint and it was worth getting up early to get tickets. Afterwards, we walked a few blocks to a Krispy Kreme at the 16th Street Mall, and then we were off on the rest of our day!
Be sure to read all of the visitor information on the Denver Mint’s website, as it could change at any time!
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