Uncovering the mysterious side of your pocket change | NevadaAppeal.com

Uncovering the mysterious side of your pocket change

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer

For more than 100 years, the myth surrounding the cornerstone of the Second San Francisco Mint was passed between coin collectors. There were rumors of its existence, but no one had ever actually been able to prove where it was, and more importantly, what was inside.

Richard Kelly and his wife, Nancy Oliver, heard the legend when they started collecting coins in 1988. Soon, the obsession with the mysteries and history of coins overtook their desire to actually collect coinage.

They spent hours in the library looking for information about the great and small mysteries of this country’s money. Then in 2004, it was a simple notation in a ledger that finally solved a century-old mystery.

“That story started our impetus to solve mysteries,” Kelly said. “We found a notation in a margin mentioning a pay-out for the coins in the cornerstone and a warrant number. We called the National Archives in Washington and they had the warrant with a list of the coins inside.”

The cornerstone contains four rarities, valued in the millions. One of only two known 1870 S $3 gold pieces, one of two known 1870 S half-dime pieces, one of 12 1870 S silver dollar pieces and the only known 1870 S quarter, its existence in itself one of the biggest mysteries in the coin world.

The S on the coins stands for San Francisco and signifies the mint where the coins were struck.

While the exact location of the cornerstone is still unknown, its general location and condition have been discovered. However, the stone remains buried within the walls of the former mint building.

To date, the couple has published 20 stories, including two books about the history and mysteries of coinage.

The couple will share stories and tidbits about the Carson City Mint that they have gleaned from their research during a presentation at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Nevada State Museum.

“The idea is to share stories about the Carson City Mint and the Second San Francisco Mint. Some humorous stories and some sad stories that concern the mint. There are a lot of similarities between these two buildings. They were built by the same architect and they were both built strong, but there are also a lot of differences,” Kelly said.

The presentation will also talk about the importance of the mint to the success of Carson City and the effect of the 1906 fire and earthquake in San Francisco.

The lecture is part of the museum’s ongoing Frances Humphrey Lecture Series. The Nevada State Museum now resides in the building which once housed the Carson City Mint, which began operating in February 1870 and pressed the last coin in 1893.

• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at jshipley@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.

If you go

What: “Carson City Mint Tidbits and Chronicles” presentation by Richard Kelly and Nancy Oliver.

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

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

Call: 687-4810 or go online at http://www.nevadaculture.org for information.