Mint condition: Mackay School commissions more coins

4/6/2009 - By: John Trent

In the fall of 2007, when 1,500 commemorative medallions were minted in Carson City, they were exquisite reminders of the 100th anniversary of the Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering, which was celebrated a few months later in spring 2008 on the University of Nevada, Reno campus.

The coins proved so popular and were so memorable, in fact, that the Mackay School has made the decision to produce 500 more Mackay coins. Dies for the coins were unveiled on historic Coin Press No. 1 at the Nevada State Museum on Friday, March 27.

Plans are also in the works to produce an additional 500 coins in 2010.

According to Rachel Dolbier, administrator of the Mackay School’s W.M. Keck Museum, the coins not only played an important role in the success of last year’s Mackay centennial celebration, they also proved to be popular collector’s items for Mackay alumni, friends, students, faculty and staff as well as mining aficionados from throughout the world.

“They continue to generate interest in Mackay,” Dolbier said.

The appeal of the coins is readily apparent. The original batch was made possible from a generous contribution from Coeur d’Alene Mines Corporation, which provided 2,500 ounces of silver. About 1,000 ounces were left over from the donation, thus providing the resources for an additional minting. Couple remarkable detail, fine artistry and the fact that they are a link to both Mackay’s history and the history of the state’s most storied coin press, which was delivered to Carson City in 1869 as part of the original Carson City mint, and you have a coin that speaks less of monetary value and more of the state’s rich mining tradition.

“The thing is,” explained Ken Hopple, the state of Nevada’s longtime chief coiner, “these are coins that are done for a purpose. They aren’t meant to be spent. They commemorate something very special.”

As he held up the die for one of the coins, Hopple couldn’t help himself.

“What a neat piece,” he said of the die, which he estimated took eight to 10 hours simply to engrave. “They really are something you remember.”

The coins are available for purchase through the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, starting in late April.


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