Golden Rooster Removed From Nugget

By: Pat Hambright Email
By: Pat Hambright Email
The famous golden artwork in the lobby of John Ascuaga

Courtesy John Ascuaga's Nugget

SPARKS, NV - You may have walked by it without even realizing its value, or its history. But for longtime patrons and employees, the Golden Rooster was a visible part of what made the Nugget in Sparks John Ascuaga's Nugget. They fear its removal Wednesday night is among the first of many changes that will be unwelcome.

Turns out there is a very simple and understandable reason the rooster is gone. It is the personal property of the Ascuaga Family, and will not be sold along with the rest of the resort.

The sudden departure may also have been hastened by a mechanical problem with the turntable in the display case.

Either way the rooster and other mementos, valuable or otherwise, will be going home with the family that hosted many of us over the years.
When discussing the empty case, a Nugget spokesperson stressed that this does not mean wholesale changes overnight, and there is every reason to believe the potential new owners when they say they want to build on the legacy of the Nugget, not just demolish everything and start over.

Here is the Nugget's tale of the rooster:

The Story of the Nugget's Golden Rooster
It was May 1958. The Nugget was preparing to open a new restaurant, The Golden Rooster Room. But one question remained unanswered: what could be done to give specific identity to the new facility. The Nugget's other dining rooms had their own insignia, themes and menus and so should it be for the Golden Rooster Room.
Management scheduled a "think tank" session and an idea was soon born: make a solid gold statue of a rooster, regal and beautiful; one that could be classified as a masterpiece of art, one that could be displayed and admired by all Nugget guests.
Permission was quickly granted by the San Francisco Mint to make the Golden Rooster, Newman's Silver Shop of Reno and Shreve's of San Francisco were commissioned to fashion the objet d'art from a model created by sculptor - artist Frank Polk.
Within four months the 18-karat gold statue was completed, transported under guard to Reno and placed in a custom made glass case near the entrance to the Golden Rooster Room. The beauty of the sculpture, the uniqueness of the work and its value as a precious metal combined to give the Rooster immediate status as a "must see" attraction for local residents as well as tourists.
Seven months after being on exhibit, the Golden Rooster attracted the attention of the United States Treasury Department, with officials charging that the Nugget 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 unless it is in the form of an object of art. The Rooster would have to be confiscated.
The Nugget pleaded its case, informing Treasury representatives that permission had been granted through Shreve's by the U.S. Mint. Following verification of the facts by the Treasury, the matter was dropped for 18 months.
In July 1960 the Nugget was again visited by officers of the Treasury, this time to present the Nugget with a complaint entitled "United States of America vs. One Solid Gold Object in the Form of a Rooster." The Rooster was confiscated and would have to go to jail. the Nugget's attempt to "put up bail" was denied.
After "serving" two years and after two trial postponements, the Golden Rooster was to have his day in court. The decision would center on one question: was the Golden Rooster an object of art. The Nugget contended the Rooster was a customary and artistic use of gold. The government disagreed.
At a jury trial in march 1962 the government was unable to sway the testimony of art critics, all of whom agreed with the Nugget. And so did the jury of ten men and two women. The Rooster was freed. Newspapers and wire services throughout the nation carried the story. News headlines shouted: "Solid Gold Bird Liberated."
Amid much display of public approval, the Golden Rooster was returned to the Nugget and its special perch at the entrance to the Golden Rooster Room."


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