By Ben Owens
Traveling to Denver or simply looking for something new to explore? Try the Denver Mint Tour. It’s free, fascinating, and fun to do high.
The Denver Mint is one of six United States Mints and is an excellent attraction in the heart of the Mile High City, offering a free guided tour of the historic facility that still produces billions of coins each year. One of many walking tours in the Denver area, the Denver Mint Tour walks visitors through the state of modern coin manufacturing and gives a full history of the mint, including a few bank robberies and the mint’s time as a gold assay office.
Each stage of the minting process requires a mind-blowing level of craftsmanship that’s often overlooked as coins jingle in our pockets. The Denver Mint serves as a repository for federal gold reserves, and continues to produce currency and uncirculated collective and commemorative coins each year.
A Few Dos and Don’ts for the Denver Mint Tour
- Book early. There are six tour times per day: 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3:30 p.m on Monday through Thursday. Tickets are available in person on a same-day-only first-come-first-serve basis. During the summer high season people are known to start lining up at the ticket window, which opens at 7am and stays open until all tickets for that day have been claimed.
- Call ahead. It’s recommended that you call ahead to make sure that you schedule your Denver Mint Tour at a time when coins are being made. Production schedules vary and may not be in production during your tour. Phone number to reach an actual person is 303-572-9500. You’re welcome.
- Don’t drive. Parking can be nightmarish in the super-central Capitol Hill neighborhood. Luckily, the Denver Mint tour ticket window is walkable from downtown and close to plenty of public transport hubs. Rideshare drivers (Uber and Lyft) are all over the place to help you out too.
- Don’t bring small children. Minimum age for admission on the Denver Mint Tour is 7 years old. Enjoy the chance to hang out in a toddler-free, stroller-free zone.
- Don’t plan on taking any photos inside. At security clearance, you’ll need your ID. You’ll be asked to leave all handbags, tote bags, purses, backpacks, food, drinks, tobacco products, and lighters. You can have your wallet and phone on you, but phones must be powered off. This is a secure federal facility. No monkey business, mmmkay?
- Exit through the gift shop. According to one gift shop clerk, the best-selling item is the Silver Eagle coin. People also buy pure gold coins and bars – you know, in case SHTF. There’s also a gold-plated quarter that’s a hot item, as well as coin-themed coasters, tee shirts, mugs, and all sorts of swag.
- Pair it with a cannabis tour. For a real only-in-Denver kind of day, plan on a Denver cannabis tour and then a Denver Mint tour (in that order — you can thank me later). You’ll get two very local mind-blowing Mile High insider experiences – first of cannabis history-in-the-making and then of Wild West olden days.
8 Nugs of Knowledge You’ll Gain on a Denver Mint Tour
- It dates back to the gold rush. The Denver Mint was originally established in 1862, four years after the discovery of gold in present-day Denver. It was initially set up to exclusively be used for minting gold coinage, but was later transitioned into minting both silver and gold.
- It served as a “gold dispensary.” One year after the Mint’s creation, it was converted into a miner’s assay office. Think of it like a dispensary for gold; miners used the mint for valuing and bartering their finds, and for melting the gold down for casting into bars.
- It had a slow start. While the mint opened in 1862, it didn’t actually start producing coins until 1906, more than 40 years after opening. With the turn of the century, the mint began producing gold and silver coins, and the mint celebrated its centennial in 2006.
- It needed a U-Haul in 1904. The mint was originally located at the corner of 16th & Market when it was purchased by the government from a private minting group. The mint was moved to its current location on West Colfax in 1904.
- It’s been robbed. Twice. The mint has been the subject of multiple robberies. In the 1920s, a cash truck outside of the mint was robbed by gangsters for $200,000 in $5 bills (about $2 million today) and it was robbed again for 80,000 (now $6 million) in gold by a guy who simply walked out with it!
- It’s gone paperless. The Denver Mint used to store paper money for the federal reserve, but now it only destroys paper money that’s been taken out of circulation. It now holds 17.5% of the country’s gold reserves.
- It goes for Guinness-level world records. In fiscal year 2000, the Denver Mint produced 15.4 billion coins, a record number and more than had ever been produced by single mint facility. Each year the amount of coins varies, rather than steadily increasing, as many expect. This is due to the rise and fall in demand for coins, as well as the amount of currency that is removed from circulation each year.
- They give you a free bag of money. Every person on the Denver Mint Tour gets a bag of money when they leave. The Mint gives about $100 to each guest, but you can’t use it to buy your next blunt, as the bills have been destroyed. It would take a lot of patience and a lot of weed to put them all back together.
The Final Hit on the Denver Mint Tour
That’s only a smell from The Denver Mint Tour’s dimebag. Even locals recommend the tour. Rich in stories and live-action production, this is the kind of factory tour that pretty much anyone can get into – especially if you’re slightly high and/or curious. You don’t have to be a coin collector or a history geek to appreciate this behind-the-scenes peek at how change is really made. Plus it’s free, so even if you’re somehow not impressed, you still get your bag of shredded money’s worth.