• seperator

Monday, March 21, 1960


A little bit of everything could be found in Numismatic News.

Shower Baths Wash Silver From Employees at the Mint

Every night when some 60 men employees take on-the-job shower baths at the Philadelphia Mint, there’s money in it for the U.S. Government.

The “money” is in the form of fine particles of silver and other metals that get into the air in the Mint, especially in the melting room.

This valuable dust adheres to the body and clothing of the workers. And since it’s still Government property, the Government wants it back. Thus, the showers.

Exactly how much of the metal it reclaimed isn’t for publication, according to Paul S. Heckman, assistant superintendent of the Mint here.

“It’s enough to justify the effort, though,” he said yesterday.

He explained that there are four settling wells at the 16th and Spring Garden sts. Institutions, connected with the shower baths and the sinks.

The solids collect in these wells, Heckman said, and are collected every so often. They are then dried in a furnace, pulverized and sent to the Mint’s assay office to determine the precious metal content.

After that, the material is put up for competitive bids by various metal refining firms and it goes to the highest bidder. It doesn’t go back to the Mint to be made into coins, Heckman said.

There’s another way to recover stray “pay dirt” at the Mint, and that’s from the clothing of the workers, especially those in the melting and coining rooms.

The apron, asbestos gloves and arm sleeves worn by these employees are made in the Mint’s own sewing room. When they’re worn out, they are burned and any residue of metal is recovered.

Likewise, the floors of certain rooms are made of wooden blocks. When those floors have to be taken up, for one reason or another, the blocks are burned and more metal is recovered, Heckman said.

In the melting room, where temperatures of over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit send metal particles flying, the floors are metal. These are swept and scraped regularly for metal recovery.

The crucibles that fit into the electric furnaces, made mostly of carborundum, are broken down and pulverized for additional recoveries.

Some metal dust gets out of the Mint on the employees’ personal clothing, but its value is negligible and no attempt is made to recover it, Heckman said.

Virtually all the recovered metal in the Philadelphia Mint, he said, is silver. But some gold is reclaimed from the operations at the Denver Mint and the Bureau’s New York assay office.

Incidentally the question of precious metal is an important one since Mints are checked by auditors on their balances of metals and coins alike.