I still have a few things on my bucket list, one of them was visiting a mint. Until recently. A business trip took me to Ottawa, where it was just the right thing to do. I don’t even know why some things take so long to complete from my bucket list, after all, these are supposed to be some of the most important things. The mint in Philadelphia could have been doable, I even started to make arrangements, but somehow, it never happened. I have even been to Philadelphia a few times when I always had “more important” things to do. But enough is enough. What’s living without having been to a mint, if living is possible having been to a mint.
I called a few weeks ahead, and as always, I asked for my own special hands-on tour. For the first time, I didn’t get it. Now, I know why. The way it works is that the tour guide walks with the blind person in front of the whole group, and explains everything in more detail. I was of course, hoping that I’ll just get to touch all kinds of cool things. Well, not this time. But let’s start from the beginning.
I was excited, like a kid in the candy store. Not sure why, maybe because this is something I really wanted to do for a long time. It was early May, but I arrived in a winter coat to Ottawa, it was close to freezing, later during the week we even had some snow. I had to get my ticket outside, for 4.50. I was joking when I asked if I’ll get change in shiny new uncirculated currency. I was told I would. I’m not the one to say if I really did, but if nothing else, the two quarters were very close to UNC, I asked my daughter and she told me they were very nice. So, I kept my change. Well, half of it. I gave a quarter to my daughter.
I had to wait in the gift shop area for the tour to begin. I didn’t want to buy anything prior to the tour. My guide was really great, she had extremely detailed explanations. However, I soon found out why I didn’t have a hands-on tour. Where the coins are made, the environment has to be extremely clean, practically no dust. One can’t just go in and touch stuff here and there. People wear gloves, hats and special clothes. Maybe it could have been more interesting to hear the machines working, but there is nothing to touch. However, since I was there on a Sunday afternoon, nobody was working. Everything was behind glass.
I thought I knew a little bit about minting, but I have learned a lot during the tour. The Ottawa mint doesn’t make circulation coins, those are done in Winnipeg. In Ottawa only gold and silver coins are made. It was interesting to learn how. Certain coins get inspected by ten people before they are released. I also didn’t know that each coin has an ID number, so the Mint can verify their authenticity. We learned why the picture of the monarchs look to the left or the right. I won’t tell you. Go attend the tour… The tour was definitely worth without being able to touch much. However, there were a few coins I was able to touch, and one of them was the concave shape one, which I have touched for the first time. It is really a coin, a very interesting design. I was always wondering how can such thing be a coin, but it definitely has a coin feel to it while it feels like a half globe, because the inside of it is not filled. Now I’m more curious though what the machines look like, I wonder if there are any machines somewhere which are no longer working. Something to look up. In Denver there is a small mint which people can try, but I’m not sure if it is similar to the current minting technology.
After the tour, I got a couple of things from the gift shop, including a 2017 mint set shaped like a maple leaf. I got it for my daughter, just asked her if I can use the picture in the blog. To be honest, the store didn’t have anything I really wanted. Some very nice sets, but nothing I feld good about opening and touching, just for the sake of laying my hands on it.
And of course, at the end, a mandatory photo with the 28 pound gold bar. So far, this was the largest piece of gold I have touched, about ten times as big as the one I got to hold two years ago. It really wasn’t the value that impressed me but that such a small bar can wiegh so much. Of course, you learn during the chemistry class the weight of gold, but it is another thing to be able to hold it and feel how it would compare to a similar piece of iron bar, which I have held many times. Now I’m curious, if there is a way to hold the one million Dollar coin, of which 6 were made, with an impressive track record already, one was stolen from a German museum, and the other was sold to be used as a coffee table. Another thing to look into, I wonder who has the other four.