Minty Fresh

Linda Burton posting from Carson City, Nevada – It’s green, and sports the number “1.” It looks imposing, tucked there in the corner of the Nevada State Museum; obviously important in the scheme of things, I think. I’m in the Mint section of the Museum, surrounded by stories of assays and mining and the minting of coins in Carson City, coins with the CC mintmark. The Carson City Mint had a relatively short existence, producing coins between 1870 and 1893. Built during the mining boom, the mint was closed when mining production declined. But that was not the end for No. 1, I learned, she wound up producing coins bearing the Philadelphia “P,” the San Francisco “S,” and the Denver “D” – what a story this turns out to be! 

She was made in Philadelphia by Morgan & Orr, manufacturers of steam-powered coin presses used all over the world. Arriving in Carson City in 1869, she was painted with a large “1” signifying “first press” in the coiner’s department, as was the custom of the day. On February 11, 1870, she struck the first coin bearing the soon-to-be-famous CC mintmark, a Seated Liberty dollar.

This hard-working press suffered a cracked arch in 1878, and was sent to the local shop of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad for repair. Machinists there claimed bragging rights by replacing the original Morgan & Orr plate with one bearing the railroad’s name. No. 1 kept striking coins until the Mint was closed in 1893; in 1899 when presses were removed she traveled back across the country to Philadelphia and was put to work in the Philadelphia Mint.

A new career, and in 1930, a new face – she was remodeled to operate with electric power. At the ripe old age of 76 with no retirement in sight, she was transferred to the San Francisco Mint in 1945 and renumbered “5” to correspond with her place in the coining department there. When coin production was halted in San Francisco in 1955, she was set aside to be scrapped.

You’d think that would be the end of it. Career over. But no, Nevada wanted her back! Through the efforts of Judge Clark Guild and other local businessmen, she was purchased for $225 and brought back to Carson City. Now it’s 1958, are you keeping up? No. 1 was cleaned and painted and became a favorite attraction in the Museum.

1964. A coin shortage in the country. The US Mint Director was Eva Adams. And where was Adams from? Nevada. She was familiar with No. 1, and requested her on loan. Pack her up, truck her off to Denver! In the next three years No. 1 struck more than 188 million coins at the Denver Mint.

She was returned to Carson City in 1967, and converted to a much slower electric drive. She struck Nevada Bicentennial medals in gold, silver, copper and bronze in 1976, and in following years has created some of the medalic pieces produced by the Nevada State Museum.

No.1 is still striking coins on the last Friday of the month, under the supervision of Museum Volunteers Ken and Karen Hopple. Drop by and watch her work. She’s one of the last of her era, and she can still do what it takes.

The Stats for COIN PRESS NO. 1

Built: 1869, Maker: Morgan & Orr, Philadelphia, PA, Weight: 12,000 pounds

Production capability: 1869 – 1,500 coins per hour, Today: 1 medal takes 10 seconds to strike

Striking pressure: 1869 – 200 tons, Today: 200 tons

Read more about the Nevada State Museum and the history of the Carson City Mint