CARSON CITY, Nev. – In February of 1870, the sparkling new steam-powered coin press inside the United States Mint in Carson City struck its first coin, a Seated Liberty silver dollar with a crisp CC mint mark.
One hundred and fifty years, millions of dollars, a couple of road trips and a healthy dose of serendipity later, Coin Press No. 1 is still pressing metal into coins in the same building in which it started.
“It’s still in operation, still doing what it was intended to do,” said Myron Freedman, director of the Nevada State Museum, which occupies the former U.S. Mint building. “We are pretty proud to be able to use it for its historically intended purpose.”
Freedman said historical research has shown the press, which was built in 1869 by Morgan & Orr in Philadelphia, suffered a catastrophic failure, a cracked arch, in 1878 which put it out of commission for a time.
Machinists at the local shop of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad repaired it, and proud of their handiwork, replaced the original brass plate bearing the name Morgan & Orr with their own.
Between 1870 and 1893, the Carson City Mint produced nearly $50 million (face value) of gold and silver coins, including gold double eagles ($20) and eagles ($10), half eagles ($5), silver dollars, half dollars, quarters, dimes and 20-cent pieces.
Today, coins with the CC Mint mark are highly prized by collectors and among the most valuable in the collecting world. An 1873 Carson City dime with no arrows – the only one of its kind known to still exist – sold at auction for $1.8 million in 2012.
The Carson City Mint ceased coin production in 1893 and the presses were removed in 1899. Press No. 1 was moved to the Philadelphia Mint, where it was remodeled in 1930 to operate with electric power. In 1945, it was transferred to the San Francisco Mint and renumbered “5” to correspond with its place in the coining department there.
In 1955, when all coin production was temporarily halted at the San Francisco Mint, the old press was targeted to be scrapped. If not for an eagle-eyed Oakland newspaperman who was also an avid Carson City Mint coin collector by the name of Frederick Monteagle, the press might have ended up in the scrap heap of history.
Monteagle sent word to the Nevada State Museum that the press was being scrapped. He then acted as the middleman when Nevada State Museum founder Clark Guild and other local businessmen were able to buy the press for the state for $225 and it returned to its original home inside the Nevada State Museum.
For the next six years it was a popular artifact in the museum, but in 1964, U.S. Mint director Eva Adams, herself a native Nevadan, was faced with a severe coin shortage and requested the loan of the press. It was trucked to the Denver Mint and operated for the next three years, striking more than 188 million coins during that time.
In 1967, Press No. 1 returned to the Nevada State Museum for good and was converted to a slower electric drive. Through the years, it has produced dozens of memorable – and collectible – medallions.
In 1975-76, it produced a coin commemorating the country’s bicentennial, and has done numerous commemorative medallions since.
Mint 150 Events Schedule
December 21: Carson City Mint Architecture
At 2 p.m., Museum Director Myron Freedman lectures on the mint’s architecture and architect, Alfred B. Mullett.
Mint150 programs are held on the third Saturday of each month with tours of the Mint building at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., demonstrations of Coin Press No. 1 from Noon to 4 p.m., and a program at 2 p.m. focused on one aspect of the Carson City Mint’s history. Regular admission, free for members and children under 17.
January 11, 2020: Meet the Currys!
In January of 1870, Mint Superintendent, Abe Curry opened the new Carson City Mint building to the public for the first time. Come celebrate this historic anniversary and meet Abe Curry and his daughter, Elvira Curry Cowen, who both figured prominently in the Mint’s history. This Chautauqua style presentation with Dave and Kathy Pierson will be a look into what it took to open and operate the Mint. Tours of the Mint building and demonstrations of Coin Press No. 1 will also be available.
February 4, 2020: Carson City Mint Sesquicentennial Event
Join us on February 4 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of when the Carson City Mint issued its first coin in 1870. Special guests will be on hand to make the ceremonial first strikes on Coin Press No. 1 of a special sesquicentennial .999 fine silver medallion. The medallion dies are sculpted by former U.S. Mint Engraver, Tom Rogers. The medallion honors the rarest minting duo existing on the planet; the CC Mint and Coin Press No. 1.
The day’s guest of honor is the director of the U.S. Mint, David Ryder. Director Ryder will kick off the festivities by striking a new sesquicentennial medallion on Coin Press No. 1. The Governor and other state leaders in attendance will also be invited to assist with first strikes. Following the ceremonial minting, there will be a sesquicentennial program featuring Director Ryder as the keynote speaker. A lunch reception sponsored by the Nevada Mining Association follows the program.
Tickets are available for a cocktail party fundraiser that evening in the Nevada Room at the Governor’s Mansion. U.S. Mint Director Ryder will be a special guest, and each attendee will receive the new sesquicentennial medallion. Tickets are $100. To purchase tickets, call 687-4810 ext. 224.
8:30 AM Free admission to the museum. Planchets for sale in the museum store.
9:30 AM Parade down Carson Street from Capitol to Mint with a local high school marching band (this is in the works.)
10:00 AM Following remarks marking the occasion, the Mint opens its actual front doors allowing historic access to the museum. The front doors on Carson Street are how the building was entered in 1870.
11:00 AM Sesquicentennial Program with keynote speaker, David Ryder, Director of the U.S. Mint. Governor Sisolak is also invited to speak as are other Nevada dignitaries. Buffet lunch reception sponsored by the Nevada Mining Association follows the program.
NOON Coin Press No. 1 demonstrations begin. Planchets available for purchase and minting into a new sesquicentennial medallion.
1:00 PM Cutting of the sesquicentennial cake!
5 PM Ticketed event. Cocktail reception at the Governor’s Mansion with David Ryder, Director of the U.S. Mint. Tickets are $100 and include a silver sesquicentennial medallion.
The Carson City Mint Sesquicentennial celebration is supported by the Nevada Mining Association, Travel Nevada, Carson City Culture and Tourism Authority and Coeur Rochester, Inc.
February 8 and 9
Children’s Minting Days
Regular Admission applies, children 17 and under and members are free.
Sponsored by Travel Nevada, children visiting the museum will receive a free copper planchet, or coin blank, to bring to Coin Press No. 1, and have a sesquicentennial copper medallion struck just for them. Limit one per child and the child must be present. Children activities including a scavenger hunt and crafts will also be taking place.
Museum opens at 8:30 AM both days, and minting demonstrations are from 10 AM to 4 PM.
Mint 150 Thursdays
2nd Thursday of each month
Regular Admission applies, children 17 and under and members are free.
The monthly Mint 150 program will move to the second Thursday of the month starting in February, from 6 to 8 PM. A speaker will lecture on a mint history topic from 6 to 7 PM, followed by coin press demonstrations from 7 to 8 PM. Planchets will be available for purchase. Information on programs and speakers to be announced.
New Replica Release Party
In the summer of 2020, the museum is will release a new replica of a coin from the famed CC coin collection. Look for details on the New Replica Release Party in future announcements.