Coins, medals minted by masters in Franklin Park
Marco Timm demonstrates how they hand engrave the dyes for a medal on Thursday, July 19, 2012 at Mint Masters in Franklin Park. Mint Masters, a family owned company manufacturers Custom Coins, Military Coins, Service Coins and other custom medals.| Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Address: 9136 Belden Ave, Franklin Park, IL 60131
Updated: August 27, 2012 6:17AM
FRANKLIN PARK — Walking through Mint Masters is like taking a walk on Treasure Island, but easier.
You don’t have to dig for a chest of gold doubloons. The business has plenty of examples of coins and medals lying in small boxes throughout the shop.
Siblings Kerstin Mourar and Marco Timm of Elmwood Park run the business, which is in its 25th year. They create commemorative coins and pins for military, government, sports and corporate uses, to honor achievements or milestones.
If you’re a college football fan, you might have seen their work at the beginning of the Rose Bowl. They create the coin that gets flipped to determine who kicks off and who receives.
The business started as a joint effort between their parents — who ran a die casting and engraving business — and some people who worked at a different mint and wanted to go into business for themselves.
Over time the non-family members left the business. Meanwhile, Mint Masters took up more and more of the business of die casting and engraving.
“Eventually, we became their only customer,” Mourar said. “My mother and I like to say it was an aggressive takeover because we were their largest customer.”
In 1998, they bought a 2,500-square-foot building at 9136 Belden Ave. in Franklin Park and the two businesses merged. Over the years it expanded to just over 9,000 square feet.
The coins begin with artwork from the customer. Timm and staff focus the design and recreate it both by hand and computer.
The design then gets turned into a die, a metal disk.
“Sometimes you can’t get the detail unless you do it by hand,” Timm said.
The die gets put into machine. Metal disks called blanks made of brass, nickel-silver or copper are hand-fed into the machine and punched with the design.
Then comes the finishing that includes polishing, lacquer and some optional treatments such as having color added.
Clients range from the military, high school sporting associations, universities and U.S. presidents.
Several presidents — Democratic and Republican – have given out Mint Masters-made coins as a token of appreciation or for fallen soldiers’ graves.
The director of the CIA has used their services, so has the Illinois High School Association. Other current customers include Emporia State University in Kansas, the Iowa High School Sports Association and the 25th anniversary or the South Dakota Lottery.
The orders are small ranging from 250 to 500 pieces. They are also high quality, with perhaps five other mints in the country doing work at the level Mint Masters does, Mourar said. Much of the work has moved to China, where companies can create cheaper items but of lower quality.
They have a dozen employees who are almost all cross-trained in every step of the process.
“Everyone in the factory has the power, if they don’t like the way something looks, to stop the job and question it,” Mourar said.
It’s not easy.
“My job is to make the coin look like the artwork,” Timm said. “Do the whole process and still have it look that look.”