Why Is Montana Called the Treasure State?

H. Lo

Montana is a state of many nicknames, one of them being the Treasure State. The Treasure State, which also happens to be Montana’s official nickname, refers to the mineral resources, like gold and silver, found within the state. Eventually, continued mining led to the discovery of other minerals in the state, including copper, garnet and platinum. The mineral wealth of Montana is such an identifying factor of the state that it even extends to the state’s two official gemstones, which are agate and sapphire. The official state motto demonstrates the mineral wealth as well, reading Oro y Plata, which means “gold and silver” in Spanish.

Montana's nickname refers to the state's plentiful mineral resources.
Montana's nickname refers to the state's plentiful mineral resources.

Although the Treasure State is the official nickname of Montana, the state is also known by a variety of other nicknames, such as Big Sky Country. This nickname comes from Alfred Bertram Guthrie Jr.'s book Big Sky and refers to the state’s wide open landscape and immense skyline. It was the Montana State Highway Department that began using this nickname in the 1960s during a tourism promotion. The nickname gained traction and was even put on Montana state license plates; it's even on the state’s official quarter.

Some of Montana's nicknames allude to the state's mountains and their attraction to visiting hikers.
Some of Montana's nicknames allude to the state's mountains and their attraction to visiting hikers.

Alongside the Treasure State and Big Sky Country, other nicknames given to Montana over the years include Bonanza State, Land of Shining Mountains, and the Stubbed-Toe State. Just like the nickname Treasure State, Bonanza State reflects Montana's resources. Land of Shining Mountains refers to the sparkling snow on the Rocky Mountains in the state's west, but for some, it can also pertain to the minerals found there as well. Stubbed-Toe State is a rather unusual nickname and its origin, for the most part, is unknown. One speculation is that this nickname alludes to the mountains and their danger to hikers.

In general, state nicknames, along with other state symbols, are meant to instill pride in one’s own state and to promote the state to others. Montana’s state symbols celebrate the life and beauty of the state, from its animals to geographical features to its history. In addition to an official state nickname, Montana also has an official state animal, bird and fish, as well as a state flower, grass and tree. One state symbol in particular, the state seal, showcases the state’s pride in its landscape, displaying geographical features such as mountains, trees and the Missouri River. In the forefront of this landscape, the state seal also depicts the state’s farming background and important mining history with images of a pick, plow and shovel.

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Discussion Comments


@Markerrag -- that's a hard question to answer. Keep in mind that California and Montana are not the only states in the Union with rich and valuable mineral deposits. Alaska is one of those with plenty of minerals but it is sparse in population and let's not forget about the Dakotas.

Perhaps a lot of it has to do with the climate. Gold may have drawn people to California, but the wildly agreeable climate is the thing that made them say and has attracted people since then.


It is very odd how gold help California boom while Montana is one of the smallest in the nation in terms of population. Heck, Montana may boast even more valuable minerals than California. That being the case, why didn't the state boom like California did?

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