With a light work load, I was able to take the afternoon off and travel to 9th Street, NW in Washington, DC, the headquarters of the United States Mint. The building is a plain, white stone office building at the corner of 9th and H Streets, a block away from Chinatown and the Verizon Center. It has the official US Mint seal over the front door, flags flying overhead, and a sandwich board sign announcing the sales counter sitting on the street near the front door.
I made the trek downtown after noon by taking the Capital Beltway to the George Washington Parkway. The GW Parkway is owned by the National Park Service and is a nice drive through the trees along the Virginia side of the Potomac River. A turn to North I-395 and I was heading into downtown DC. Driving in downtown DC is not like other big cities. The streets are wider, cleaner, and you have to watch for double-parked vehicles in strange places. But I made it to the Mint’s headquarters.
When I entered the lobby, there were several people in line for the sales counter. I joined the line so I could purchase a 2007 proof set. Next to the line were three change machines, the type you might see at an arcade or laundromat. As I scanned the machines from right to left, the first machine dispensed Sacagawea Dollars. Insert any bill, and the machine would drop the equivalent amount in Sacagawea Dollars. The next machine to its left was filled with Idaho quarters. With Idaho being the current issue in the 50 State Quarters program, this machine changed four quarters for one paper dollar. Ironically, this machine did not accept one-dollar coins.
Finally, with a queue of its own, was a machine set up to dispense presidential dollars. With today being the first day of issue for the Thomas Jefferson Dollar, people were lined up to obtain this coin. As I waited to purchase a proof set, I watched as someone with a backpack and a fist-full of twenties feed the machine. As the coins were dropped in the outside bin, he placed the coins into white plastic trays. When a tray was full, he placed the coins into a plastic zip bag and into his backpack. It appeared as if the tray was the size of five rolls. He was filling his third tray as I was leaving.
When it was my turn at the counter, I was told that the last proof set was sold while I was waiting. Ironically, I was at the Philadelphia Mint last week trying to purchase a proof set when the power went out. The Mint did not reopen that day and I went home without a proof set. I guess I will have to order the set online. Then I set my sights on the machines. Three twenty dollar bills and one five dollar bill later, I had my stash of Jefferson dollars and left… after stopping for two dollars of Idaho quarters and eight Sacagawea dollars.
I returned home to a hungry dog who needed a walk. After taking care of his needs, I went to my computer, opened the blinds, turned on the Ott Lite, and started to examine the coins. First they were separated by type, then by mint mark. I found 29 Jefferson dollars from Philadelphia and 36 from Denver. Only one of my eight Sacagawea dollars were from Philadelphia and all of the Idaho quarters were from Denver. Not bad for being closer to Philadelphia! Then I focused on the Jefferson dollars. Any coin with a visible nick or problem was set aside. I was looking for clean surfaces, no visible scarring on the high points, and good luster. Finally, I used my loupe to find the best.
In the end I found 22 coins I was confident would do well under NGC’s scrutiny. I logged on to NGC’s website and filled in the online order form. With the coins, order form, and a check packaged, I drove to the nearby Post Office, which is the main distribution station for the region, and was told that Express Mail was a two-day guarantee delivery to Sarasota. I wonder if this has anything to do with Sarasota being referred to as “the Redneck Riviera” according to MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough.
All that work for the First Day of Issue designation on the holder. The last time I did this was for the Washington dollars. The next time will be for Abraham Lincoln. To borrow a phrase from Billy Joel, “You may be right/I may be crazy,” but I am having fun!