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Coin show gives Carson sense of past

Andrew Pridgen
Appeal Staff Writer

Why are the double letters “cc” the most important in an American coin collector’s vernacular?

Who is going to win the raffle for a framed photograph of the Carson City Mint along with an 1875 cc trade dollar?

How old was James Crawford, overseer of the Carson City Mint, when he died?

Local residents and coin enthusiasts will get the answers to these questions and meet more than 35 coin dealers from around the nation at the 2007 Carson City Mint Coin Show on Saturday and Sunday.

The 15th annual show will take place at the Nevada State Museum, erstwhile home of the Carson City Mint.

The mint began operations in January 1870. During its short lifespan of 23 years, the mint produced nearly $50 million face value in gold and silver coins.

By the time the coin presses shut down for good in 1893, it had produced 111 different date/ denomination varieties including three different kinds of silver dollars – for which the mint later became famous.

“It has really come into prominence over the last 35 to 40 years,” said Reno-based coin dealer Rusty Goe who operates Southgate Coins with his wife, Marie. “The government had stockpiled silver dollars in the ’70s and when they started to release them, people immediately began to identify Carson City with the coins.”

The Goes, who used to run a coin shop out of Las Vegas and planned to move to Reno to retire in 2001, instead opened a store in Northern Nevada based on the call from coin collectors here.

“It has surpassed all our expectations,” he said of his shop. “I think part of that is due to the historic gem we have right here in Carson City.”

As Bob Nylen, curator of history at the museum, began Tuesday to ready the historic coin press for operation this weekend, he told of the coin show’s success rooted in the building’s history.

“This is a small coin show compared to others,” Nylen said. “Collectors really like to come to the mint – a lot of them focus on Carson City coins.

“It’s a chance for them to come back, they feel there’s a real connection.”

The connection isn’t just felt by longtime collectors and dealers, Nylen said. Many of the visitors to the coin show are first-time enthusiasts who clear out their drawers or bring in a family collection – out of simple curiosity.

“Sometimes people who don’t know much about coins bring in old family treasures and the dealers are more than willing to help them out,” Nylen said. “They walk away pleasantly surprised and often with a new hobby.”

For Goe, the hobby, which became his passion – turned into a new livelihood, as author.

From 1-2 p.m. Saturday, he will sign copies of his new release: “James Crawford, Master of the Mint at Carson City – A Short, Full Life”.

The 658-page book chronicles the life of Crawford, whose local stature parallels with today’s professional athlete, Goe said.

“When you realize (Crawford) oversaw the minting of 85 percent of all the coins made in Carson City, it’s pretty amazing,” he said. “For noncoin collectors, he was a significant figure in Northern Nevada because of how popular he was. He was involved in every aspect of life in the Carson City area. An avid sportsman, he competed in rifle tournaments – a very popular sport.”

Teresa Moiola, public information officer for the State of Nevada, said she sees the coin show continuing to grow in popularity.

“We get dealers that come from all over the region including Northern and Southern California,” she said. “We draw so many regional dealers because we are the only show held at an actual U.S. mint.”

After coinage operations ceased, the mint building served as a U.S. Assay Office until it closed its doors for the last time in 1933. The State of Nevada purchased the building, and 48 years after the last coin was struck, it became the Nevada State Museum.

And that, Goe said, was something that almost didn’t happen.

“There were times they thought about tearing down that building, what a terrible loss that would’ve been,” he said. “Carson City was so honored to have a mint. There have only been nine U.S. mints – you look at the others, Philadelphia, San Francisco, New Orleans, Denver … it shows you what a special time and place it was.”

If you go

What: 15th annual Carson City Mint Coin Show

When: 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday; 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sunday

Where: Nevada State Museum, 600 N. Carson St.

Prizes: Of the 30 dealers participating in this year’s show, nearly all have donated one or more prizes for a raffle