In 1854, the San Francisco mint opened being the first US mint west of the Mississippi River. They minted gold and silver coins from the precious metals discovered in California.
In 1859, a large deposit of silver and gold ore was discovered near Virginia City, NV, which would be known as the Comstock Lode. Practically overnight, the discovery turned the sleepy town of Virginia City to a city of 15,000. Of course, this post is not about Virginia City.
The Carson City Mint
In 1863, Congress decided to build a mint branch in Carson City to make coins from the Comstock Lode ore. With the Civil War in full force, construction of the mint building was delayed until 1866. It officially opened in December of 1869 and started minting coins in 1870. Just like Gold Coins were being produced in San Francisco from the California Gold Rush, Carson City produced Silver Coins from the Comstock Lode. They would produce Gold Coins as well. Carson City’s mint mark was “CC”, the only mint mark with more than one letter.
Though they minted coins from the dime up, the most popular was the Morgan Dollar. In most years of its existence, Carson City didn’t produce as many of the other mints (Philadelphia, New Orleans and San Francisco) which made them more popular to find. The ones you are more likely to find are the 1882-CC and 1883-CC Morgan Dollars. Personally, I only have one Carson City coin in my collection, an 1877-CC Seated Liberty Dime that is included in my type set.
The Carson City mint was closed by President Grover Cleveland and the Democratic administration in 1885. Supposedly since silver was worth less than gold, taxpayers paid their bills in silver, but international creditors wanted payment in gold. As a result, the Cleveland administration tried to reduce the amount of silver being minted and put the US under the gold standard. When Cleveland left office, the Carson City mint resumed production in 1889. However, this would be short lived. With the decline of silver coming out of the Comstock Lode, the Carson City mint was closed for good in 1893.
After the Closing of the Mint
The building would become a US assay office until 1933. In 1939, the US Government was sold to the State of Nevada. The state would convert the building into the Nevada State Museum, which is still there today. Included inside the museum is Coin Press No. 1 (the original coin press from the mint). They still use it to produce medallions with the CC mint mark.
Carson City today
Though there was silver being brought to Carson City and becoming Nevada’s state capital in 1864, it didn’t flourish as much as other local towns at the time. Many Chinese would live there to work on the railroad. Unfortunately, the Central Pacific Railroad ended moving further north where the mining towns were. By 1920, there were less than 2,000 people in Carson City. Beginning in the 1940’s, Carson City was expanding and by the 1960’s, their population went over 10,000 for the first time. Unlike other cities that was losing people during the 1970’s and 1980’s, Carson City was growing. The 2010 census showed Carson City with over 55,000 inhabitants.
Whatever Happened to Virginia City?
Like I mentioned earlier in this post, Virginia City’s population was increasing as a result of the Comstock Lode. A lot of the Comstock Lode was used to help build San Francisco like the gold in California. Many people were coming to Virginia City in the 1860’s and 1870’s including writer Samuel Clemens, who would change his name to Mark Twain while living there.
In 1875, there was a great fire that destroyed many building and left 2,000 people homeless. The city was rebuilt and continued flourishing until the 1880’s with the decline of the Comstock Lode. People started leaving Virginia City and by the 1920’s, there were less than 1,000 people living there.
Today, Virginia City still has a population under 1,000, but is becoming popular again through tourism.
I Would Like to Visit Carson City someday
I haven’t been to any of the US mint yet, but would like to visit San Francisco and Carson City someday. I want to go to the museum and see the coin press in person. Would you like visit Carson City?