One good blog article deserves another. Last week we published excerpts from Jason Cochran's interviews with U.S. Mint personnel. This week we have another nice article from Daniel Terdiman's Geek Gestalt blog.
Thanks to Dick Johnson for pointing it out (his son found it).
From a technology standpoint, it's a good thing I'm here now, rather than, say, 10 years ago. That's because about five years ago, the Mint transitioned from a purely manual production process of engraving in clay to one in which much of the work is done using off-the-shelf software tools like Adobe's Illustrator and Photoshop, plus a few others. Of course, from the perspective of a numismatic enthusiast--or as one of my hosts here put it, a "mint nerd"--it probably would have been better to be here when everything was still done by hand.
The good thing about transitioning to tools like Illustrator and Photoshop is that it allows the designers to fix things whenever they want. In the past, a mistake meant starting over and doing an entire drawing again.
Now, errors are easily fixed, and the digital tools let the designers do all kinds of neat tricks that were never possible before: look at 3D models of a future coin, alter their perspective, change angles, maneuver a coin any way they want, and more.
That's critical, Mercanti said, because when crafting a new coin, or any of the commemorative medals made at the the Mint, the "tolerances" the designers are working with are measured in the thousandths of an inch. Indeed, he said that being even one-thousandth of an inch off is tantamount to a Mt. Everest-size mistake, and can mean that the metal in the coin may not flow properly, or that the coin's too hard to manufacture.
The blog includes a great YouTube video interview with Joseph Menna showing how designs that start off as two-dimensional images in standard tools like Photoshop are converted to 3D models the designer can physically sculpt using special-purpose tools including a video game controller. This ain't your grandfather's Mint!
For those whose email readers support it, below is an embedded version of the video. If you can't see or run it, go to the blog web page (link below).
These days, that level of production means investing in the latest tools, and in recent years, the Mint has invested millions in new presses, CNC machines, and software. In addition to Illustrator and Photoshop, the Mint also relies on software like Freeform and Z Brush for 3D sculpting. The former works in conjunction with a haptic arm (see the video below) that allows designers to get physical feedback when digitally "sculpting," much as they would if they were using engraving tools on clay.
Canadian paper money collectors will be focusing on Saint John, New Brunswick July 15th. The first lot of the evening, Lot #956, of the Geoffrey Bell Auctions sale will feature the finest 1925 Dominion of Canada $500 to ever come into the market. Only 8 examples are known and this particular banknote is graded almost uncirculated and includes a one of a kind signature combination.
It is anticipated the note could break a world record for Canadian banknotes bringing $250,000 to $350,000. Geoffrey Bell Auctions is headquartered in Saint John and will auction the historic specimen during the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association convention being held at the Saint John Convention Centre July 14 to 17.