After more than a year, visitors to the Nevada State Museum can watch the museum’s historic Coin Press No. 1 carry on a mission it started nearly 150 year ago in the same building.
The venerable press — which churned out millions of dollars in silver and gold coins during stints at U.S. Mints in Carson City, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Denver between 1870 and 1964 — is once again minting medallions after being down for much of 2017 for repairs.
After a successful test run in December, the museum plans to have the press operational the last Friday of each month — beginning Jan. 26 — with two-person teams of volunteers not only working the press, but sharing its history with museum visitors. The demonstrations will be taking place from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m.
“We are delighted to, once again, offer demonstrations that allow visitors to see it in action producing medallions with the famous ‘CC’ mintmark, and have that rare personal moment with a Nevada history legend,” said Myron Freedman, director of the Nevada State Museum. “The coin press is one of the museum’s most beloved artifacts and the staff and volunteers love sharing its history. The fact that it is operating in the same Mint building where it first began service makes it one of the most unique coin presses in the world.”
Manufactured by Morgan & Orr in Philadelphia, the six-ton press arrived in Carson City in 1869 and pressed its first coin — a seated Liberty dollar — on Feb. 11, 1870.
In 1878, it suffered a catastrophic failure, a cracked arch, 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.
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, the press 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. Oakland newspaperman Frederick Monteagle, an avid collector of Carson City coins, recognized the brass plate of the V&T Railroad and alerted the Nevada State Museum. 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 in 1958.
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 converted to a slower electric drive. In 1975-76, it produced a medallion commemorating the country’s bicentennial and has produced many medallions in the years since.
The coin press demonstrations are free to observe with museum admission. Patrons can also purchase a blank .999 silver medallion at the museum store for $60 and see it pressed with one of the special designs.
For information, contact Bob Nylen, curator of history, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-4810, ext. 245.