​Moneymakers: Artists at the U.S. Mint

The U.S. Mint has been honoring our nation's first spouses -- the latest to get a commemorative gold coin is Mamie Eisenhower. From stamping medals to making money, Mint designers are hard at work thinking small, as Anna Werner now shows us. (This story was originally broadcast on April 12, 2015.)

In this past-paced world obsessed with earning money, and spending it, it's understandable why you might not take a minute to examine your spare change. But if you did, you might find those coins are miniature works of art.

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Don Everhart's design for the Montana state quarter.
U.S. Mint

Donald Everhart, lead sculptor for the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, says people are fascinated by how money is made. "Once they realize that it's not just, you know, press some buttons on a computer and out pops a coin -- there's a whole process to it."

"There's art in money,' said Werner. "There's not, maybe, money in art, but there's art in money."

"That's a good comment, I like that!" Everhart laughed.

Everhart's designs range from the state quarters we use every day, to medals presented to world leaders.

It's a unique job -- there are only seven sculptor-engravers in the country, and they all work out of the same Philadelphia office.

"How many designs do you think you've come up with?" asked Werner.

"It's gotta be in the thousands, literally," he replied.

Most coin designers use computers, but not Everhart. For him, each design starts with a lump of clay.

And you can't argue with his results, creating images with depths of as little as 70 or 80 thousandths of an inch.

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Don Everhart designs in clay.
CBS News

He isn't the only one throwing in his two cents when it comes to his creations. Before designs are approved, they go through TWO federal committees.

"We don't have to abide by what they say, but we take what their recommendations are very seriously," he said.

"How much artistic freedom do you have in terms of designing the coins?" asked Werner.