Commemoration of the Granite Lady, the San Francisco Mint that survived the 1906 earthquake, with two commemoratives, moved a step closer to reality May 18 as the Senate Banking Committee reported S. 1881 without amendment, clearing the way for a floor vote before Memorial Day.
The legislation calls for up to 100,000 $5 gold pieces and 500,000 silver dollars emblematic of the Old Mint, which was opened in 1874.
The measure has already passed the House. Approval by the Senate and House, together with the President?s signature is required before it becomes law.
Introduced as S. 1881 last Oct. 18 by Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein of California, the measure was slow to gain steam until just before the traditional Easter-Passover recess when 50 members of the Senate jumped in and signed on as co-sponsors, joining 16 other members who variously agreed to act as co-sponsors since last year.
The former U.S. Mint facility was built in the early 1870s, survived the great earthquake of 1906; was cast aside in 1937 in the midst of the Depression for the new mint, and it even made it well into the 1990s before government regulation closed it down.
But the 21st century poses a new challenge, thanks to yet another earthquake that has made the Old Mint?s foundations shaky and all but barred its use for any purpose in the absence of substantial and expensive renovation.
Located in the heart of San Francisco?s financial district at Fifth and Mission Streets, the Granite Lady has fallen into disrepair. Though Mint personnel were able to save it from destruction in 1906 by canny use of water hoses to beat off the fire that destroyed much of the surrounding area, subsequent earth tremors have left cracks in its foundation.
The building is showing its age. Modern building codes in San Francisco require it to be earthquake proof ? an expensive proposition ? and a restoration would run into millions of dollars.
Dr. Donald H. Kagin, the well-known Bay Area coin dealer whose Ph.D. dissertation was on Pioneer gold, is the person whose dedication to restoring and saving the Granite Lady has now extended to trying to create a commemorative coin program to fund the restoration.
?The San Francisco Old Mint is famous for many rare, legendary issues, such as the 1870-S $3 coin, which is valued today at well over $1,000,000? the precatory portion of S. 158 begins.
The Senate may pass the House version, pass its own bill, or add riders of other legislation that relates to the numismatic field.