1870 Liberty Seated CC Sesquicentennial Half Dollar -- Nevada State Museum’s Mint 150

The Most Historic Minting Duo on the Planet

The Carson City Mint operated from 1870 to 1893, but it is preserved today as the home of The Nevada State Museum. The museum is commemorating the sesquicentennial of the evolution and opening of the mint, and the anniversary of its issuing the first CC coin on February 4, 1870.

Although legislation authorizing the creation of the U.S. Branch Mint at Carson City was passed by Congress on March 3, 1863, actual construction did not begin until three years later.  Work proceeded so slowly that three more years passed before coining machinery arrived in November of 1868.

Historic Coin Press No. 1 arrived in that first shipment; the six-ton press was manufactured by Morgan & Orr in Philadelphia, who created many of the steam-powered coining presses then in use throughout the world. The mint officially opened for business early in January of 1870, and on February 4, 1870, this press struck the first coin bearing the soon-to-be-famous CC mint mark, a Liberty Seated dollar.  For the first five years of operation, coin press no. 1 was the only press, and then two additional presses were added in 1875 and 1876, one smaller and one larger.

When the press suffered a cracked arch in 1878, it was repaired at the local shop of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad.  Proud of their handiwork, V&T machinists replaced the original brass Morgan & Orr builder’s plate with one bearing the name of their famous railroad. 

For nearly a quarter of a century, it was used to strike most of the larger denomination pieces. Between 1870 and 1893, the Carson City Mint produced roughly $ 50 million (face value) of gold and silver coins, including gold double eagles ($20), and eagles ($10), half eagles ($5), silver Trade dollars, silver dollars, half dollars, quarters, dimes and for two years 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 coin press continued in service at Carson City until coining operations ceased in 1893, and in 1899, along with all other machinery in the coiner’s department was moved to the Philadelphia Mint, where a few years later it was remodeled to operate with electric power. In 1939, the Mint was purchased by the state of Nevada for use as the Nevada State Museum, which opened in 1941. In 1945, Coin Press No. 1 was transferred back across the country to the San Francisco Mint.  Finally, when all coin production was temporarily halted at San Francisco in 1955, the historic press was due to be scrapped. Oakland newspaperman Frederick J. 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 businesspeople 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 favorite artifact on exhibit in the museum, but in 1964, U.S. Mint Director Eva Adams, herself a native Nevadan, was faced with a severe national coin shortage and requested the loan of the press. Judge Guild and the museum board agreed to loan the press for as long as was needed to alleviate the small denominational coin shortage.  It was trucked to the Denver Mint and operated for the next three years, striking more than 118 million coins during that time, then in 1967, the press was returned and went back on display. 

In 1976, it was put back in operation for the United States Bicentennial celebration used to strike Nevada Bicentennial medals in gold, silver, copper, and bronze.  For the last 42 years the Nevada State Museum has continued to mint special commemorative medallion on the 150-year-old press.

“The coin press is one of the museum’s most beloved artifacts, and the staff and volunteers love sharing its history,” Myron Freedman, director of the Nevada State Museum, said. “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.”

The coin press is operated each Friday and Saturday, and on other special occasions, demonstrations are free to observe with museum admission. Patrons can also purchase a blank .999 silver medallion at the museum store and see it struck with one of the special designs. In honor of the Mint’s sesquicentennial, the museum has issued a special reproduction of the first half dollar to be minted on Coin Press No. 1. Production of the 1870 Liberty Seated half dollar is done using Nevada sourced silver and limited to 3,000 pieces. Each one is mounted into a card noting its series number. Beginning February 4, 2020, the sesquicentennial of the Mint’s issuing its first coin, the museum will produce a new .999 fine silver medallion in honor of the occasion. All medallions are struck on Coin Press No. 1 inside the mint and bear the CC mint mark. To order medallions, call the NSM Museum Store at (775) 687- 4810, extension 234.

For more information on the Mint 150 celebration, visit Mint150.com

This sponsored content is brought to you by the Nevada State Museum, Carson City.

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