Rock & Gem

The Carson City Nevada State Museum


The Nevada State Museum is located in the heart of historic Carson City, about 32 miles south of Reno, Nev., near the California border. The museum features the rich natural and cultural heritage of the “Silver State.”

My husband and I visited Reno and the area a few years ago on our way to the Virgin Valley opal mines at the northwest corner of Nevada.

Carson City saw a boom when the Comstock Lode silver strike took place in 1859. The major silver discovery, made by the Grosh Brothers but named for the American miner Henry Comstock, sparked the area’s silver rush, only ten years after the California gold rush. Silver mining camps sprung up all over, including nearby Virginia City and Gold Hill. The mines declined after 1874, while some undergroun­d mining continued until the 1920s.

Carson City is known officially as the Consolidat­ed Municipali­ty of Carson City. It’s the capital of Nevada and has been since 1864. The town is named after the frontiersm­an Kit Carson, and Carson City served as the hub for the Virginia and Truckee Railroad, parts of which is restored and runs today.

Visitors entering the Nevada State Museum can make their way to the former Carson City Mint building, where coins were minted from 1870 to 1893. The impressive sandstone Mint building in Renaissanc­e Revival style was completed in 1869. The Mint was establishe­d in Carson City to be close to the precious metals’ mines and mills on the Comstock Lode and other mining districts of the state.

The Nevada State Museum hosts permanent exhibits inside the historic Carson City Mint, including a historic weapons gallery, and a very realistic mine you can walk through. From the Ghost Town exhibit, visitors can tour the wonderful undergroun­d mine in the basement, and learn about the area’s silver mining history. Also on exhibit inside the Mint building is a silver service set that was on the legendary U.S.S. Nevada battleship (BB-36). The beautiful, ornate tableware were fashioned from 5,000 ounces (417 pounds troy weight) of silver from the Tonopah mines (known as the Queen of silver camps) and lined with gold from Goldfield - the boom town site, where gold was discovered in 1902, 247 miles southeast of Carson City. The silver service was presented to the USS Nevada at her commission­ing in March 1916. Among them is a beautiful 15-gallon punch bowl, fashioned by Gorham and Company in 1915.


When visitors enter the Nevada State Museum, they encounter the still-in-operation Coin Press No.1 and a complete set of coins minted in Carson City, which are both the museum’s featured exhibit. This coin press No.1 was manufactur­ed by Morgan & Orr in Philadelph­ia. When it arrived at the Carson City Mint in 1869, a large number “1” was painted on the top of the press, being the first press at that locality. The first coin was struck in 1870 and was a Liberty Seated dollar, bearing the distinguis­hing “CC” mint mark, which will appear on all subsequent 57 issues of gold and silver coins that the Mint coined.

The press itself had a complex journey. After the Carson City Mint stopped minting in 1893, the presses

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