Reach into your pocket or change drawer and pull out a handful of U.S. pennies. Look carefully at their fronts—chances are most will have a small letter “D” just below the date. This is the mint mark for the Denver Mint, one of only a handful of facilities that produces U.S. currency. This particular location is a byproduct of the days when Denver was a gold-mining hub. When gold was found in Colorado in 1858, hundreds of merchants, miners and settlers moved in to claim their stake. A year later, Denver was founded, and several years after that, in 1863, the government decided to develop a mint facility here. In addition to producing money people use every day, the Denver Mint also stamps out a variety of not-in-circulation commemorative coins.
The grand architecture of the massive Renaissance-style 1904 mint building itself is worth checking out. To go inside, visitors must sign up for one of the free tours, which includes historical exhibits, vaults and gold bars, along with a firsthand look at the coin production process.
The Denver Mint is located on West Colfax Avenue, just a few blocks west of the Colorado State Capitol. Free tours are offered Monday through Thursday (excluding federal holidays) from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The 45-minute tours can be reserved up to 90 days in advance, and space is limited. On the day of your tour you must be at the tour entrance no later than 15 minutes before your tour time. As a working U.S. Mint, all visitors are screened by tight security and most personal belongings must be left outside.