As the 150th anniversary of the opening of the U.S. Branch Mint in Carson City draws closer, the Nevada State Museum is expanding the days it showcases one of the Mint’s most enduring artifacts.
For much of the summer, the museum has been giving history lessons and minting medallions every Friday on Historic Coin Press 1 — the original coin press used when the Mint opened in February 1870. Starting this week, the museum will be operating the coin press from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
The most popular medallion of late is the replica 1870 Liberty Seated Half Dollar (complete with the “CC” mint mark), the first half dollar to come off the press when the Mint opened in 1870. The museum is doing a limited-edition run of the replicas in honor of the Mint’s sesquicentennial.
“Interest in the replica 1870 half dollar has been tremendous,” said Myron Freedman, director of the Nevada State Museum. “The planchets we are using are made from silver that comes from the Coeur Rochester mine near Lovelock and we only have so much of it, so it is a special limited series.”
Museum patrons can purchase a planchet in the museum store and bring it to the Coin Press Gallery to have it minted. Already pressed medallions are available in the museum store for purchase as well.
Between now and February, the museum will mint a variety of its medallions. Patrons can call the museum at 775-687-4810 the week they plan to visit to see which medallion is being minted that week.
Freedman said the half-dollar replicas will be minted for Smithsonian Museum Day on Sept. 21 and Oct. 25 and 26 for Nevada Day weekend.
“The combination of the Mint’s original coin press striking an 1870 replica coin using Nevada silver, and during the sesquicentennial period, makes collecting this medallion the perfect way to celebrate this unique and rare piece of history,” Freedman said.
Coin Press 1 was built in 1869 by Morgan & Orr in Philadelphia. 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. The plate is still in place today.
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.