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Trouble in the Golden Rooster Room

Out near Reno, Nevada, you’ll find John Ascuaga’s Nugget Hotel. It’s a ritzy place, and the décor proves it. All the dining and conference halls at the Nugget each have their own theme, insignia, and menu to make them unique and memorable. However, when the nugget tried to open the Golden Rooster Room with its usual fanfare in 1958, it hit a little snag.

The hotel management had decided that to help the Golden Rooster Room stand out, they would commission a solid gold rooster statue to be the centerpiece of the room. After getting permission from the San Francisco Mint, they hired Newman’s Silver Shop of Reno and Shreve’s of San Francisco to fashion the statue – based on a model by sculptor Frank Polk.

The result was a fantastically detailed 18k gold statue. The value and beauty of the statue attracted hundreds of visitors and the Golden Rooster Room built up a reputation as one of Nevada’s great tourist attractions. However, the U.S. Treasury Department soon caught wind of the rooster, and cried foul.

The Treasury Department claimed that the hotel was in violation of the Gold Reserve Act which makes it unlawful for a private individual to have more than 50 ounces of gold in possession. The law was widespread news at the time, so how could the hotel knowingly violate the law? Well, there is a provision in the law that states such a gold possession would be legal if it were in the form of and object of art. The Nugget believed the rooster was art. The Treasury Department did not.

After two years of litigation (during most of which the rooster in question was under confiscation by the U.S. government), the courts agreed that the golden rooster was indeed, a piece of art. It was returned to the Nugget Hotel where it crows over the Golden Rooster Room to this day.

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