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Century of history etched in silver

Yuma-made medallion marks major milestones for Arizona Centennial

YUMA, ARIZONA – In 1912, leading Yuma merchant E.F. Sanguinetti decided to commemorate Arizona statehood and the opening of the Yuma Siphon irrigation project by casting a special silver medallion.  Sanguinetti’s commemorative coin featured an image of the interior of the Yuma Siphon with the date 1912 on one side and his name on the other.

Flash forward one hundred years:  With Arizona preparing to celebrate its Centennial, Sanguinetti’s grandson, Bruce Gwynn, brought one of the long-forgotten historic coins to a meeting of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area board of directors.  Inspired, the Heritage Area decided the 100th birthday of the state and the Siphon was worthy of a new medallion.

What is the Yuma Siphon?  It’s a massive tunnel under the Colorado River that delivers irrigation water to the Yuma Valley.  Because the shaft on the California side is higher than the exit in Arizona, the water actually moves by natural siphon action – a nifty trick and a distinctive name.  Water first bubbled up through the Siphon on June 29, 1912, helping to fuel the powerful growth of Yuma agriculture for the last century.  Today, this engineering marvel still works exactly as it did in 1912, bringing water to 50,000 acres of rich Yuma Valley farmland.

To realize its vision, the Heritage Area turned to Yuma’s master jeweler Paul Bensel, who created a new coin with a three-dimensional image of the Siphon’s interior on one side and an Arizona Centennial image on the other.  Bensel worked throughout the summer to finalize the design and is now producing a limited edition of just 100 numbered coins cast in a full ounce of sterling silver for delivery by Christmas 2011.

“Not only is this a beautiful keepsake to mark two huge milestones in Yuma history, but it’s a great local story that says so much about what makes Yuma special,” said Charles Flynn, executive director of the Heritage Area.  “Not only does Yuma have the Siphon still going strong after 100 years of operation, but we still have Bruce Gwynn and other descendants of Yuma’s pioneer families still actively involved today in preserving and interpreting Yuma’s rich history for generations to come.”

“This coin commemorates not just the Centennial of the Siphon and the state, it speaks to the vitality of the Yuma community,” Flynn added.

In deference to their Sanguinetti heritage, the first numbers of the limited edition silver coins have been reserved by the Gwynn family, but orders are now being accepted from the public.  The cost of the limited edition silver medallions is $250 each, including a display case.  Orders may be placed at the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park during regular business hours, or call 928-783-4771.

The commemorative medallion will also be cast in brass in an unnumbered edition, and will be sold for $25 each.  The brass coins will be on sale at the Territorial Prison and at the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park beginning in December.

Net proceeds from the sale of both the limited edition silver medallions and the brass medallions will be used to help pay for a new exhibit on the engineering and construction of the Yuma Siphon at the Quartermaster Depot park this winter, and for Yuma’s Centennial celebration and fandango set for Feb. 14th, 2012 on Main Street.


Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area is an independent nonprofit corporation governed by a local board of directors.  It was among the first national heritage areas in the West officially designated by the U.S. Congress.  The Heritage Area's master plan projects earned the Governor's Arizona Preservation Award in 2009.  For more information, call 928-373-5198 or visit

Yuma Visitors Bureau markets the Yuma area within the travel and tourism industry and to the general public. Direct travel spending in Yuma County totaled more than $566 million in 2010, supported nearly 5,800 jobs and generated $36.3 million in state and local tax revenues.  For more details about Yuma's year-round attractions, special events - and the rarely "cloudy with a chance of tacos" forecast* - visit or call 800-293-0071.

* Yuma hotel guests will eat free every day the sun doesn't shine from Aug. 1, 2011 until July 31, 2012! For more information on our Centennial "free board" promotion, call us.


Media contact:  Ann Walker, 928-376-0100 (office), 928-210-9044 (cell),
Visitor Information Center: 1-800-293-0071

The Yuma Visitors Bureau is always happy to assist members of print, digital and broadcast media, either on assignment or pitching an idea with a Yuma angle.

Visit Yuma team can suggest itineraries and facilitate visits, or provide you with the inspired details to help nail down an assignment.  We pride ourselves on always going "above and beyond."

You can download background and "anytime" materials below; dated press releases appear "most recent first" at left. Call or email us for photos and B-roll video.

YVB periodically hosts group and individual press trips, and is glad to partner with other Arizona or California DMOs to coordinate a visit to several regions.

For more information, contact Linda Morgan at 928-376-0100 (office), email Thanks for your interest in the Yuma area.

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Background info:

Fast Facts About YVB

 Fast Facts About Yuma 

Yuma history - narrative

Yuma historic timeline


Research and statistics

Yuma Winter Visitors Study 2017-2018

Yuma Winter Visitors Study 2017-2018 Executive Summary

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