For a sneak peek into the oldest private mint in the country, click on the different videos to see how custom coins are made. It’s a fascinating process where giant coils of metal wind up as die struck coins, some smaller than one inch.
Step 1 – Unwinding a Metal Coil
Most of the metal we use comes to us as a skidded coil. It is ordered to our thickness and width specifications for the wide variety of coins we make in our Cincinnati, Ohio factory. At any given time, our warehouse holds enough copper, brass, nickel silver and specialty alloys to make more than 20,000,000 coin blanks. This video shows a coil of metal being unwound to make its way into the blanking press.
Step 2 – Blanking
As the metal coil unwinds, it’s fed into a blanking press. “Blanking” is the act of stamping out blank, round metal circles to the size needed for production. In some cases that could be 0.800″ all the way up to 3 inches. Every stamp used (aka all the tooling) is made in our on-premises tool shop. Each different size blank has its own specific tooling, which is labeled and stored in our warehouse. Based on the request from production, the appropriate tooling is installed in the machine and can quickly cut out thousands of blanks an hour. Using a baking analogy, blanking is like rolling out dough and using a cookie cutter to cut out a specific shape. In our case, that’s round. The extra metal (or dough) will be featured in the next video – Making and recycling scrap.
Step 3 – Recycling Scrap
After the round blanks are stamped from the strip, there is remaining metal. We engineer our blanking tools to get the optimum number of blanks from the strip, but there will always be left over material when you cut circle from a rectangular metal feed. What remains is called web and while it’s solid metal, we cannot use it any further. In the press, blanks come out the front, but the web continues along the conveyor path and is chopped up. The chopped pieces are collected in a gaylord and are shipped back as scrap to the mill where it will be recycled into new metal. All our metal scrap is recycled this way and stored in individual bins. Each bin can only contain one kind of metal (brass, nickel silver, copper etc). If different metals are mixed in a bin, it’s considered contaminated and thus more difficult to reuse at the mill as it has to be sorted before it can be processed.
Step 4 – Rim and Burnish
After the blanks have been created, they may have rough edges and scratches. They are also completely flat. The next step is to create a slight rim around the edge and burnish them. As they move through the conveyor line, they go through a machine that adds a rim to the edge, then off they go to be burnished. Burnishing is done in large vibratory machine that holds media designed to clean, polish and de-burr the blanks. The tumbling media can range from corn cob to steel ball bearings. It depends on the size and material to be cleaned and polished. For more information you can check https://cmtopline.com/pages/selecting-the-right-tumbling-media.
Step 5 – Blanks Finished and Ready to Strike
Once the custom coin blanks are cleaned and rimmed, they are conveyed into large metal tubs marked with the metal (ie 230 brass, 260 brass), diameter, thickness, and tare weight and stored until they’re ready to be used in production.
Step 6A – Coining Copper Rounds/Coins
Our custom coins are die struck in special presses that exert hundreds of tons of pressure on a pair of dies (more about that here – https://customcoins.osbornecoin.com/news/multiple-finish-options-with-1-pair-of-dies) which strike a blank so hard between them that it forces the metal to literally FLOW into the raised and recessed areas on the dies, thus creating the design on the coin. This design will never fade or wear off. Depending on the age of the coin and the stressors it was subjected to, it may not be as crisp as the day it was freshly minted, but even if you run over it with a truck, you’ll still see the design. This is a key benefit of die struck coins. The process we use to die strike custom coins is what the US Mint uses to create pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters etc.
Step 6B – Copper Rounds/Coin Production continued
As the custom copper coins are minted, they shoot out of the machine into a slide ending in buckets that capture them to be counted and packaged. It’s important when working with metal coins, especially copper and silver, to touch them only on the edges or even better, to wear gloves when you handle the coins. Our fingers impart oil onto the surface of coins that can leave fingerprints and tarnish over time. With copper, it takes very little time to tarnish. We offer the option of applying a thin coat of lacquer to copper coins. Our golden brass & antique brass custom coins are automatically lacquered. Nickel silver coins do not tarnish and do not require lacquer.
Step 6C – Custom Coin Production Sheets
Every order that goes through our factory has an accompanying packet of information that details information about the custom coins we’re making. It includes the type of metal, diameter, thickness, edge type (plain or reeded), turn (coin or page) and the specific dies to be used to complete the order. This must be completed by the operator and turned in when the run is complete.
Step 6D – Tube Packaging
One of most popular methods of packaging copper rounds is in tubes of 20. The tubes are extremely durable with a tight fitting cap and protect the coins while they’re in transit.
Step 7 – Finished Tokens Being Conveyed to the Counter
We’re a full service mint, so our products range from fine silver rounds to low value brass tokens. When we make thousands of stock and custom tokens a shift, it’s impractical (and practically impossible) to count them by hand, so we have automatic counters. This video shows the tokens being conveyed up as they’re being produced so they can go through a counter and be bagged. Tokens in general are packed 1,000 per bag as that’s the minimum order quantity for stock tokens. Custom tokens have a minimum order quantity of 5,000 pieces.
Step 8 – Coin and Token Counting and Bagging
The counters are designed to shut off the flow of coins or tokens as soon as they hit a pre-programmed amount. Once that happens, the operator tightly seals the bag with a zip tie and quickly starts filling the next bag until the order is complete.
We hope you’ve enjoyed your tour of the oldest private mint in America and can see how amazingly complex making custom coins is. So many steps go into creating that small, die struck, piece of round metal that can be used for awards, commemoratives, safety reminders, gift coins, BOGO coupons, free admission, SNAP tokens and more.