It’s a bar! It’s a gift shop! It’s a restaurant! It’s a casino! It’s a motel! It’s an RV park! It’s all of that, but most of all, it’s an old-school roadside tourist attraction! It’s the Lincoln family’s “50,000 Silver Dollars,” and it’s right off the highway in western Montana.
The 15-minute Stop
If you’re cruising down Interstate 90 in western Montana and you have 15- or 20 minutes to spare, 50,000 Silver Dollars is a quirky, quick on-and-off place to stretch your legs, grab a cup of coffee, and take a look at what may be the world’s largest collection of silver dollars. Oh, and by the way, there are more than 50,000. The collection, started by Gerry and Marie Lincoln in 1952, was up to 64,757 on the date of my visit. Donors get their names engraved next to their silver dollar. The first 2,500 or so were embedded in the bar top and have been iced with a thick layer of varathane. The rest are mounted and hung on the walls and ceiling of the bar. Grab a cup of coffee at the bar and take a peek.
The 2-hour Stop
If you have a little more time to spend (or a designated driver), take a seat at that bar and have a cocktail or a beer. Visit with the bar staff and the other tourists. Throw a few bucks into a slot machine. Wander through the gift shop, a combination of kitsch and handicrafts touted as Montana’s largest. Top off your gas tank at their gas station and maybe top off your own tank with a meal at their restaurant. Service isn’t always lightning fast, but the prices are reasonable and they offer a good selection of standard diner fare.
The Overnight Stop
There are two options for spending the night at 50,000 Silver Dollars. The Silver Dollar Inn has 40 plain-Jane, clean-and-quiet rooms with very reasonable rates. They offer senior and trucker discounts and provides a free hot breakfast for everyone in your party. The rooms have free Wi-Fi, coffee service, and HBO, and pets are welcome. As of their last website update (2012), smoking rooms were available.
If, on the other hand, you carry your home with you, they offer free (you heard me right, free!) RV parking. There are even a few electrical hook-ups on a first-come, first-served basis. You can pick up essentials at the on-site convenience store. If you need to mail something (or UPS or FedEx), the gift shop can help you.
Sticking around 50,000 Silver Dollars for a day or two will give you the opportunity to chat up locals and other tourists alike. You are pretty much guaranteed to learn about some hidden gems in terms of nearby western Montana outdoor activities. There is plenty of parking on the property; the owners encourage you to bring your off-road vehicle or horse trailer and explore the “literally hundreds of miles of Forest Service roads” in the immediate area. There’s a corral for your horse, too. This is Montana, after all.
A Little More Info
You’ll find Lincoln’s 50,000 Silver Dollars (now in its 4th generation as a family-owned business) at Exit 16 (town of Haugan) on Interstate 90, near Montana’s western border with the Idaho panhandle. The complex is right off the highway; you can’t miss it. It’s about 90 minutes west of Missoula, Mont., and just shy of 2 hours east of Spokane, Wash.
The 50,000 Silver Dollar bar, casino, gift shop, and restaurant are open every day from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. Mountain Time. Their second casino, the Silver Express, stays open until 1 a.m. The motel, gas station, and convenience store are open 24 hours a day. For more information, phone 406-678-4242.