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Numismatic Destinations – Nevada State Museum: The Former Carson City Mint

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Street advertising in Carson City for the Nevada Street Museum. Click image to enlarge.
The Nevada State Museum sign at entrance. Click image to enlarge.

In the center of the capital city of Nevada there is the Nevada State Museum, situated at 600 North Carson Street. This state museum was once the location of the now much-beloved Carson City Mint. While not fully original, the museum is upon the land where the mint stood and parts of the original mint and other historical items are still there for the public to view and experience. It is a numismatic destination that, when you’re in the area, is well worth the admission price for the visit.

A diorama of early Nevada history, one of many such displays. Click image to enlarge.
Taxidermy lynx or bobcat on display. Click image to enlarge.
Display for the Comstock Lode. Click image to enlarge.

The Nevada State Museum is publicly accessible on three floors holding different attractions. The second floor is dedicated to Nevada history. This Nevada history includes natural history, geology, and geologic history, along with the history of Nevada. Visitors can see a prehistoric mammoth and giant sloth skeletons, a room full of taxidermy animals, and mineral displays in the natural section. In the history of Nevada, the museum tells the story from exploration and settlement, to becoming a territory and then a state, and well beyond. The underground exhibit was built for visitors to experience what mining was like. This experience takes you through replica shafts to see displays of mannequins mining. This exhibit is not necessarily built for tall people, so be sure to watch your head!

Display of the Norm Blitz Collection. Click image to enlarge.
Display of the Norm Blitz Collection. Click image to enlarge.
Coin Press No. 1. Click image to enlarge.

The first floor is where the historic Carson City Mint attraction is located. The great pride of the museum is the still-functional coin press on display. “Coin Press No. 1” is the first press to operate at the Carson City Mint. On Saturdays, the mint will use the press for the public to view and strike commemorative medallions that are available for sale in the museum gift store starting at $75 each. Across from the coin press is an open vault that is barred in and houses a nearly complete set of Carson City Mint coinage, which is on loan to the museum.

This collection, once belonging to Norm Biltz, was left to Wells Fargo Bank under three conditions: that the collection will never be sold, that it would never leave Nevada, and that it will be displayed. This impressive set includes the legendary 1870-CC gold and is behind bars. In a corresponding room there are coins and other artifacts on display. This includes some canceled dies; an 1873 Half Dollar obverse; and 1885 Dollar, $10 and $20 set. The coins on display include Carson City Mint gold $20, $10, $5, Liberty Seated Dollar, Trade Dollar, Morgan Dollar, half dollar, quarter, twenty cent, and dime, and all of these coins are easily viewed.

Display of coins, die, and other mint objects. Click image to enlarge.
Display of coins, die, and other mint objects. Click image to enlarge.
Giant scale. Click image to enlarge.

Another room holds a giant scale and explains the process of coining. An additional display shows a recent discovery of an 1875-CC Twenty Cent reverse die that had been dug up in an excavation along with a matching coin to that die. Another room is the Historic Mint Theater, which has on loop an old film that describes the history of Carson City, the Carson City Mint, and its coining process. The theater room also has displays of items from the Comstock Lode, including mineral samples. On this floor there is also a “ghost town,” silver, and firearms displays.

The Mint Theater. Click image to enlarge.
Carson City Mint medallions for purchase in the gift shop. Click image to enlarge.

Across from the entrance is the museum store, and while there is relatively little there in terms of coin-related material, there are a few albums and Carson City Mint medallions. Across the street from the Nevada State Museum are two coin shops: Carson Valley Currency & Coins and Northern Nevada Coin. Both places offer a hearty selection of coins for sale.

American collectors and numismatists have a great love of Carson City coinage and Nevada residents have great pride in the history of their state. These two come together in the Nevada State Museum, where for a few hours you can see firsthand the history and artifacts of the Carson City Mint and the state which bore it. It is a numismatic destination that is worth the visit if you are in the area!

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