On Tuesday, 31 January 2006, Nevada became the 36th state honored with a statehood quarter. A grand celebration held in Carson City, Nevada's Capital, marked the occasion. Rusty had the privilege of attending the ceremonies; but his love affair with Nevada did not end there...
Nevada Statehood Quarter Launch
History Made, History Presented
By Rusty Goe
February 3, 2006
Carson City, NV... Every once in awhile we take a trip or experience an exciting event which causes us to tell friends back home, "wish you were here." As I strolled the grounds of the Capitol in Carson City last Tuesday, January 31st, with the chilly morning air reddening my cheeks, I wished that everyone I knew could have been there to join me in the historic Nevada Statehood quarter launch ceremonies. Though I flew solo that day since Marie and our staff girls kept business running at the shop, thousands of other proud Nevadans formed a crowd the size of which had not been seen at a public gathering in Carson City for who knows how long.
We were there to witness the official launch of our state's "Wild Horses" quarter. Mick Jagger and company could not have stirred more enthusiasm if they had been singing their song with the same name down the street. A giant map of the United States with slots for all 50 statehood quarters provided the background for a platform filled with dignitaries, guest speakers and committee members. Governor Kenny Guinn stood out with his impressive height and his snow-white hair. A younger political aspirant, State Treasurer Brian Krolicki, officiated the ceremonies with all the vigor the event deserved. Acting Mint Director, David Lebryk, honored the crowd with his presence, expressing genuine enthusiasm during his brief talk. In Native American tradition, an Elder from Nevada’s Paiute tribe, Andy Allen, provided ceremonial blessings.
Comstock legend, Mark Twain (impersonated by McAvoy Lane), delighted the audience as a guest speaker. Adding to the Old West theme, two Pony Express riders delivered symbolic bags of Nevada quarters as their horses approached the stage. Hundreds of school children, bussed in for the event, stood spellbound by the enchanting environment.
Meanwhile, as the spectacle continued, hundreds of people broke from the crowd to form a line stretching for several city blocks for the privilege of purchasing souvenir sets in specially designed holders, or rolls of Uncirculated Nevada quarters from the Denver Mint. As the sponsor of the quarter exchange, the Nevada State Bank set up canopied booths off to the side, with volunteer bank employees directing traffic. As soon as the 45 minute ceremony ended, hundreds more people went to the back of the line; estimated to number 1,500 to 2,500 people.
Police on duty estimated the total turnout to be between 3,500 and 4,000; considered a record attendance for an event held on the Capitol grounds. Reporters from every TV station in Nevada, as well as most of the state’s newspapers, took in everything; filming, taking notes, and searching for human interest stories. An elderly woman at the front of the quarter exchange line told a newsie that she and a few other people had arrived by 8:30 that morning to ensure getting first shot at the rolls and souvenir sets. Being among the first to reach the Nevada State Bank's booth, this woman and her friends had the opportunity to purchase four rolls of quarters. Not anticipating such a large turnout, the bank eventually reduced the limit to two rolls per person; at one point contemplating limiting rations to only one roll. People at the end of the line were rewarded for their perseverance, however, as bank staff removed the limits, after nearly two hours of disbursing the coins. Several people were said to have purchased as many as 50 rolls each at the end.
As for the souvenir sets, only 3,000 were available, selling out even before sales of quarter rolls ceased. These souvenir sets, encased in acrylic plastic, included one Nevada quarter each from both the Denver and Philadelphia Mints, framed by a picturesque and informational card. The Nevada State Bank also distributed free piggy banks containing one Nevada quarter to every child in attendance. From all appearances, everybody who showed up got what they came for – although in the next day’s papers, a few complaints were lodged by people who felt short-changed because of the inconsistencies in limitations imposed during the quarter roll exchange.
I received more than I came for; not just because of the rolls of quarters and other souvenirs I brought back to the shop. Energized and inspired by the whole affair, I stopped off at the Nevada State Museum, where the festivities continued. Staff there, were preparing to strike special occasion medallions commemorating the quarter launch. Old coin press #1, originally fired up 135 years ago this month, to strike the first coins to ever come from the Carson City Mint, faithfully served its purpose once again, as these medallions dated 2006 each received one powerful blow.
After making my rounds and catching a quick peek at the world-class set of "CC" coins on display at the museum, I headed to Lone Mountain Cemetery, just a few miles away. Greeted by the groundskeeper and the office assistant, I continued my journey back in time, and paced up and down the gravesite area. Regrettably, I did not find a headstone for the subject of my next book, James Crawford; but nonetheless, I know he is buried there and thanks to the groundskeeper, was able to find the section where Crawford’s remains rest. One of my Masonic friends is requesting information from the fraternal organization Crawford belonged to, which might provide a necessary clue for the groundskeeper to identify the exact plot. If successful, Marie and I are considering donating a well-deserved headstone for the Honorable James Crawford.
Just being at Lone Mountain, which dates back to the 1860s, enhanced my immersion into Nevada's history that had begun earlier in the day. Capturing the essence of all that the day's activities meant to me was Abe Curry’s headstone in all its founding father glory.
From Curry's grave, I headed over to Dr. S. L. Lee's; and then on to the headstone of colorful stagecoach driver, Hank Monk; just before discovering the site of Ben Meder, a Nevada state legislator, at whose boarding house James Crawford lodged. Included in my tour were the sites of Carson Mint Assayers in Charge, Roswell Colcord and Annie H. Martin; as well as many other personages reminding me of Nevada’s past. As I said goodbye to the spirits of these dear departed pioneers, I spotted one last headstone, which put the finishing touch on a historic day. Henry F. Rice, Wells Fargo agent, pitiable stockbroker, and ex-Superintendent of the Carson City Mint, lay buried in the Yerington family's section. Rice married V & T Railroad Superintendent, H. M. Yerington's sister, earning him a spot in the prominent family's final resting place.
Nevada history flowed through every vein in my body as I returned to our shop in Reno. Marie and the girls gave me sufficient time to come down off my euphoric high before I began sharing my experiences with them. I provided a slideshow featuring the wonderful assortment of digital pictures I had taken; and then I broke out rolls of quarters, ceremony programs, souvenir sets, and piggy banks to add to the electricity in the air. Marie and the girls indulged me in my exhilarated state; but I knew none of what I shared had the same impact on them as it did on me. I also knew they were happy for me.
Now that it is over, I am grateful for the fond memories lodged in my brain; and I am just as grateful for the pictures and the souvenirs that I brought back. Oh yes, and the quarters: How could I forget the quarters? These round, shiny, metallic objects dated 2006 sparked the catalyst for an adventurous day, which touched every nerve in the historian-researcher side of me. Would I have missed it? Wild horses could not have kept me away. Only, I wish you were there, too.