The process of turning silver ore into silver coins is fascinating from start to finish. The U.S. Mint presses a range of silver coins and bullion, using fine silver and a 6-step procedure.
During the initial preparation phase, 99.9% pure silver is melted at a temperature of up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Once melted, the liquid is then poured into cylindrical billets. Silver turns into silver at around 1700 degrees Fahrenheit. The furnace must be hot enough to prevent the silver from solidifying before the workers are able to pour the liquid into the billets. The temperature has to be just right.
In the next step, the billet is forced through an extruder to create a long, thin strip known as a coinage strip. One coil weighs about 810 ounces. The process starts with the coil being loaded into a roller. The roller produces a blank strip. All strips must be of exactly the same thickness. It is then dropped onto the ramp to cool down.
The strip will have to stand on a conveyor belt to cool down before it’s pulled over to the silver tables for more cooling until it’s taken to the chop saw to cut it into certain lengths. When it comes out, it has to be checked on both sides for any uneven parts or scratches.
Before the strips are taken to the cutting tables, they are rolled out to the appropriate thickness and punched into 39 mm or one ounce rounds to look like plain silver medallions. The rounds are pushed out of the machine by a conveyor belt to prevent it from jamming in the machine. The blanks are then weighed to ensure they are of the correct weight. The high powered machine used in this process can produce up to 4000 blanks per minute.
The 39 mm one ounce blanks are polished to a shine before they are pressed. Little blue balls called satellites are added to the machine where they rub against the blanks to make the blanks shiny. Annealing is the process makes the blanks malleable through heat and this is necessary before the coins go to press.
The unique coin design is etched into a steel die using special engraving tools. The lower and upper master die is used to stamp the blank simultaneously to create original coins.
Once minted, coins go through an intense quality check and inspection to ensure that they are perfect in design and weight. Each coin must be in pristine condition and flawless before it is approved for circulation.