Money maker

John Mercanti 63, Senior Engraver, U.S. Mint, Philadelphia

Interviewed by Anastasia Serdyukova, Fortune

(Fortune Magazine) -- I've been working here since 1974. At that time, I was an illustrator but had never sculpted. Since then I've designed 35 medals and 43 coins. We are all classically trained, and we demand a lot [of ourselves] because the Mint is known for its beautiful coins. I've made quarters for Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Iowa, West Virginia, and Arkansas. The individual states supply the Mint with a written concept. My division comes up with the visual interpretations. Then the state votes on them, or sometimes the governor makes the decision, but the Treasury Secretary has to sign off on everything we do. Ultimately the [state] picks the design, and we begin sculpting it. We transfer our design to an eight-inch round clay model, which in turn is transferred to plastic. An engraving and transferring machine, called a Janvier, reduces the artwork to a coin size on a piece of steel. It can take months to make one. The best part of my job is seeing the finished product--holding the coin in my hand. It's satisfying to see them all over the country.  Top of page