CARSON CITY — With the touch of a button Friday, Gov. Brian Sandoval sent 120 tons of pressure onto a blank 1-ounce silver planchet and created Nevada’s first 150th anniversary silver medallion.
Of course, he didn’t have to use this fingers to place the piece of silver in the slot on 1868- vintage coin Press No. 1. He left that duty to the state’s official “coiner,” Ken Hopple, who after performing the state medallion-pressing duties for the past 12 years still has all 10 of his fingers.
“Ken might be out of a job,” said the governor jokingly after finishing his duty.
Then unexpectedly Sandoval pulled a check for $100.50 out of his pocket and paid the same price that people around the state are paying for the medallion.
“You didn’t think I was good for it?” quipped Sandoval, who as governor would be entitled to a free medallion.
Hopple over the next few weeks — one coin at a time — will mint the first 1,000 silver medallions to celebrate the state’s admission into the union on Oct. 31, 1864. The medallion features the state seal on one side and a 150th anniversary logo on the other.
The state’s Sesquicentennial Commission selected the design of the first medallions. Three other medallions will be released in the coming year as the state holds at least 150 anniversary events. Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, chairman of the Sesquicentennial Commission, said the commission will hold a public contest to select the next medallion design.
Krolicki also said the first 1,000 silver medallions already have been purchased by people who filled out advance application forms. But he said others still should apply to buy either the silver medallion, or a $15 copper medallion.
Additional supplies of silver or copper will be acquired by the state. For more information on purchasing a medallion, call the Legislative Counsel Bureau, 775-684-6835.
During the ceremony, Krolicki reminded the governor — who initially referred to the medallions as “coins” — that the federal government prohibits states from minting real coins. So call them medallions.
Silver sold Friday for $22 an ounce, so whether the medallion is a coin or not, it still is worth money.
The initial 1,000 ounces of silver were donated to the state by the Coeur Rochester mine near Lovelock. Krolicki said he hopes other mines will make donations of silver or copper. Profits from the sale of medallions will be used to pay for 150th anniversary events.
“It is going to be an exciting year,” said Sandoval, who will participate Saturday in the Nevada Day Parade in Carson City and later toss the coin to open the annual University of Nevada, Reno versus the University of Nevada, Las Vegas football game in Reno.
“I have friends on one side and I have friends on the other side. I will be siding with my friends,” quipped Sandoval, a UNR graduate, when asked about the outcome of the football game.
He said he plans to toss his silver medallion when he walks on the football field and makes the coin toss before kickoff. Sandoval will be accompanied by Mason Kamerer, a 12-year-old Sparks Middle School student wounded Monday at shooting at his school.
As part of the sesquicentennial ceremonies, a Nevada Day Parade also will be held in Las Vegas on Nevada Day 2014.
The minting ceremony took place in the Nevada State Museum, the same building that housed he U.S. Mint between 1870 and 1893 and where Press No. 1 made coins with the cherished “cc” mint mark. The state acquired the building long after it closed and opened the museum in 1941.
Right across from the press — and behind huge bars — is a collection of 109 of the 111 different gold and silver coins minted in Carson City A private collection of all 111 Carson City coins sold last year for nearly $15 million.
The two coins the museum lacks — both minted in 1873 — sell for about a combined $3.5 million. There is only one known copy of the 1873 “no arrows” dime, although Hopple expects there are others out there.
“Anybody out there want to make a donation?” Hopple asked.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901.