Osborne Coinage has been making coins in Cincinnati for nearly 200 years, and less has changed in that time than you might think. “Coins have been made pretty much the same way for millennia,” says David Blumenfeld, director of business and product development. Simply place a blank (or coin-shaped) piece of metal between two steel dies—and then smash them together with incredible force.
In the mid-1800s, a die like this would have been made by a craftsman, fashioned with tiny chisels, scrapers, and hammers. Measuring about one-and-a-half inches tall, the image is the reverse of how it appears on the coin. “Each one was hand-engraved,” Blumenthal says. “Each one was unique.”
During World War II, Osborne—which bills itself as America’s oldest private mint—produced 5 billion ration tokens for various supplies, including butter and oil. Since metal was scarce, the tokens were made of a fiber-like cardboard.
The company operates in an 80,000-square-foot facility in Camp Washington with solar panels on the roof. Those panels provide some of the electricity that drives the company’s modern presses, which can mint as many as 750 coins a minute.