Source: The Franklin Mint
NEW YORK, Jan. 14, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- In the height of discussions and confusion surrounding the debt ceiling, the fiscal cliff, and debate over the Trillion Dollar Coin, The Franklin Mint has created a detailed tutorial highlighting the steps involved in minting coins from their Chief Numismatist (coin minting expert Gwynne Gorr) to help inform the conversation. Much has been made about the possibility of this coin, and journalists have struggled to understand the process behind minting a coin in the United States. For this purpose, The Franklin Mint offers this concise overview of this complex business. For almost 50 years, the world's leading private mint has created works of fine art, magnificent objets d'art and treasured collectibles, in addition to minting thousands of collectible coins and providing national and international coins and bullion to global collectors. The Franklin Mint is a noted expert in all kinds of coin minting and finishing.
Coins have been the basis of all currency almost since the beginning of time. A simple round piece of metal has lead the economic development of every nation in the world and the toss of a coin – heads or tails – can even change the course of history. It is fitting indeed that one of the most critical building blocks of the world's economy – coins – requires such a great amount of artistic and technical expertise to create. For chroniclers of history, this artistry is celebrated – and collected – for many generations to come.
Creating a coin is a process that has survived thousands of years. While modern coins are very precise and have beautiful finishes, even the most ancient coins feature many of the same details. Generally speaking, coins start with a need for a specific denomination of currency. This demand can come from a need for a new denomination, such as the US dollar coin or a desire to commemorate a person or historic event. The US State Quarter program is a good example of this type of demand.
Once the need has been identified (and most likely regulated by some sort of government agency), the real fun begins. A two-dimensional design is created for both the front (obverse) and back (reverse) of the proposed coin. Many times, this design must include both aesthetic elements and legal elements that make it binding to be backed financially by the issuing government or institution.
The two dimensional design has many artistic considerations that affect the complexity of manufacturing and the type of material that can be used for the minting. The more elaborate and dimensional the design becomes, the more power needed to mint the final product.
Based on the needs of the design, the next step is to bring in the talents of a sculptor to bring the artwork to life. Portraiture is the most difficult type of sculpture to execute because of the wide range of ways each of us interpret a face. Wildlife images, such as an eagle, and conceptual images, such as Lady Liberty, allow the artist much more freedom in their sculptural execution of the design.
Throughout history, coins have come in many shapes and sizes. Currently the smallest circulating coin in the world is the Panama 2.5 Centimos; only 10 mm in diameter. The largest legal tender coin ever minted is the $1,000,000 Australian gold coin; a whopping 31.5" in diameter. It weighs 2204 pounds and has over a $53 million gold value. The sculptor typically does their work in a significantly larger size than the final coin. Generally, they work on an 8" bed, though larger coins can require them to go as high as a 10" bed. The larger size enables the artist to capture the greatest amount of detail. The sculpture is done in clay and when finished, a rubber mold is made and then it is then cast in plaster materials to be smoothed and finished. You can visit FranklinMint.com and view video there to see the incredible detail that is captured at this last step of the creative process.
Once the sculpture is finished in hard material, it is then digitally downsized on a reducing machine and etched into metal dies. An engraving craftsman then comes in and finalizes all details by hand. The dies start off as soft steel and are hardened for production use once the final touch-ups of the art are completed. The dies are then fitted into a press and tested to see if the final product meets expectations. Many times the dies must be re-polished or touched up to achieve the final look of the coin.
After the coin is minted and inspected, edge marking may be added to provide further definition on final product. Edge marking can be a difficult process to control in manufacturing. The US Mint had to change their process on the Presidential dollar program because of the challenges they faced with edge marking.
Coins can be made from virtually any metal. Though typically we think of coins being produced out of something that is precious, most regular circulating currency is produced out of metal blends, selected for durability and cost. During World War II, the copper penny was actually minted out of steel for a year because of the needs of the war effort for copper material. The Steel Penny is one of the most collected coins for this reason today. The type of metal used and the size and thickness of the coin all affect the size of the manufacturing press that is used to do the production. Gold, which is a soft metal, requires a very different force to mint than nickel. Using the wrong pressure in the minting process can lead to loss of design integrity, ghosting of the image on the opposite side of the coin, and even cracking.
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