One hundred fifty years to the day after the first coin was pressed at the Carson City Mint, the same coin press will be minting medallions in the same building to commemorate the historic event.
“The coolest thing to me is when the Mint opened on Feb. 4, 1870, the same press that pressed those coins is the same machine in the same building 150 years later,” said Guy Clifton, public relations specialist for the Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. “No other mint in the world has something like that.”
It was an unlikely series of events that made it possible for Coin Press No. 1 to stand the test of time.
The Mint, which issued 57 different types of gold coins and produced eight coin denominations, produced coins from the silver and gold ore of the nearby Comstock Lode. The Mint operated until 1893, producing more than $50 million in coins.
However, the coin press’ service was nearly cut short when it suffered a catastrophic failure in 1878.
Rather than send it back to Philadelphia — where it was built by Morgan & Orr — operators opted to send it just up the road to the Virginia & Truckee Railroad.
Mechanics there fixed the press, and, showing a little pride in their work, replaced the original manufacturer’s plate with the V&T insignia.
This proved to be a fateful decision nearly a century later.
When the Carson City Mint closed in 1899, the press was shipped back to Philadelphia and converted from steam-powered to electric.
Coin Press No. 1 was then shipped to the San Francisco Mint in 1945. In the 1950s, it was deemed outdated and was set to be scrapped.
However, Frederick Monteagle, then-city editor of the Oakland Tribune, and a Carson City Mint enthusiast, recognized the V&T builder’s plate.
He contacted the Nevada State Museum’s board of directors, who bought Coin Press No. 1 back for $225.
While the press was back in its rightful home, it was not operational.
That was remedied during a national coin shortage in 1964 when Eva Adams, the director of the U.S. Mint — also a native Nevadan — reached out to the museum to borrow Coin Press No. 1.
The press was sent to Colorado for use at the Denver Mint.
In 1967, the press was once again returned home to Carson City, and in 1976 museum officials used it to mint a commemorative medallion in honor of the country’s bicentennial.
Since then, it has produced scores of commemorative medallions.
“I contend it’s the most significant and most unique coin press still in operation in the United States,” said Bob Nylen, curator of History at the Nevada State Museum.
Festivities will start just before 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 4 at the Nevada State Museum, 600 N. Carson St. Admission is free.
The commemorative medallion will pay tribute to the Mint building; its first superintendent, Carson City founder Abe Curry; and its first press, Coin Press No. 1. They will be cast in both silver and copper and carry the famous “CC” mint mark.
The Mint Sesquicentennial medallions will sell for $75. Attendees can purchase a blank planchet and have it minted on the coin press.
For full details of the celebration, go to www.mint150.com.
Editor’s note: The online version of the story has been changed from the version published in print on Jan. 22 to reflect the Mint opened on Feb. 4, 1870.