Territorial Values

Before 1857, U.S. coinage was not the only legal tender in the United States. This led to many foreign coins and private issues circulating alongside U.S. money. Even after 1857, some smaller private issues and state coins saw use in the Western U.S. states where Precious Metal coins were harder to come by. Private coins were usually struck to service a shortage in U.S. coinage. Most of these coins are incredibly rare due to low mintages. 

The coins that Machin’s Mills struck were underweight. They took in old British Half Pennies for their services and paid out their obligations using their new lightweight imitations. The counterfeit British Half Pennies are identified by the very thick lips of King George III on the obverse or by the large, triangular-shaped denticles on the coin’s edge.
Reuben Harmon of Rupert, Vermont, was authorized to strike copper coins for the independent republic of Vermont in 1785. Colonel William Coley, who was a goldsmith from New York, was charged with creating the designs and the dies. They crafted 14 different designs over a four year period.
America’s first private gold coins were some gold doubloons struck by Ephraim Brasher in 1787. Brasher was a goldsmith from New York and a next-door neighbor and friend of George Washington. No one is certain whether these coins were patterns for gold coinage or patterns for proposed copper coinage.

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With so many competing firms no longer in business due to incorrect assays, Wass and Molitor found very little competition. What they needed to really expand the business was to strike their own coins. So in 1851, they obtained coinage dies for $5, $10, $20 and $50 coins.
In 1852, the United States Assay Office of Gold issued two different $50 “slugs” of different fineness in addition to issuing a $10 gold coin. The local merchants and bankers tried hard to persuade the minters to strike a $5.00 denomination coin so as to help relieve the coin shortage but the US Assay Office of California resisted striking the smaller denominations.
Templeton Reid, a Milledgeville, GA, jeweler and gunsmith struck the very first private gold coinage in the United States. Reid saw an opportunity and decided to try his hand at striking coins from Georgia-mined gold.
Templeton Reid achieved fame for striking Georgia Private Gold coins in 1830. He minted $2.50, $5.00, and $10.00 Gold coins, which were in high demand in and around Georgia until his weights were shown to be inaccurate.
The firm Schultz & Company began its life in San Francisco originally as a foundry in 1850. As the Gold fields beckoned, the company had purchased the equipment to forge the dies for all of the private mints in and around San Francisco.
It is believed that the firm of Broderick and Kohler bought the coinage dies and struck coins under the “Pacific Company” name. But unlike most of the private California gold coins, the Broderick and Kohler firm had no coining presses. These coins were struck by hand using the obverse and reverse dies and a sledgehammer, as coins had been struck since ancient times.
Neither the Federal government nor the Oregon Territorial government provided Gold coinage to the Oregon Territory amidst the California Gold Strike, so the Oregon Exchange Company took matters into its own hands and began striking coins for use in the Oregon Territory. Machinery was fabricated or purchased and shipped to their building in Oregon City.
As gold was discovered in 1848 in Sutter Creek in California, one of the first companies to take advantage of the gold strike was Norris, Gregg & Norris, in Benicia City, California. While they might not have been the first, it was the first reference to a private gold coin.
The first coins struck with California Gold dust were not coined in California, but in Salt Lake City, Nevada. The designs of the coins were likely instigated by Brigham Young, and they are truly symbolic rather than aesthetically pleasing.
During the winter of 1848-1849, Moffat formed a company with 3 other respected gentlemen and headed to California to become part of the largest gold strike in United States history. But unlike so many others in California, they set out to begin minting Gold.
The 1852 Moffat and Humbert coins looked radically different from their year-earlier counterparts. The obverse had a circular pattern both above and below a central panel.
The Miner’s Bank $10 Gold Eagles were assayed to only have a fineness of .866 when a minimum of .900 was to be sought – as that was the fineness for all federal gold coinage.  Once the fineness became common knowledge, the gold coins could only trade at as much as a 20% discount.
During the 1849 California Gold Rush, the Massachusetts & California Company saw an opportunity to begin minting Gold ore and Gold dust. While we do know that the principles of the Company did make it to California, there is no evidence to suggest that their coinage equipment survived the long and arduous journey to Panama and then across the Isthmus overland.
Early in February of 1854, Kellogg & Company issued its first gold coins – $20.00 gold coins – and Kellogg claimed he could strike them at the rate of $20,000 of face value on a daily basis – 1,000 coins per day! The dies greatly resembled the US coinage of the day making them even more desirable.
Dr. John Parsons was drawn to Colorado, searching for opportunities to begin a minting operation. He minted $2.50 and $5.00 Gold coins between June and October of 1861. It is believed that his “mint” was located in the back of his wagon.
The first private gold coin minter in the Capital city of Sacramento was J. S. Ormsby & Company. The firm was comprised of the two Ormsby brothers and a clerk who assisted them.
In 1861, J. J. Conway formed a Colorado company to help miners turn Gold dust into coins for use in commerce. Conway & Company struck $2.50, $5.00, and $10.00 Gold coins, which were in high demand by bankers, merchants, and miners.
It is unknown how many $5 Gold Coins were struck, but only one specimen exists. The reason for their scarcity today can easily be explained. The weight of the coin was 8.60 grams, and the fineness was .879, which produced an intrinsic gold value of more than $5.
Edward Dunbar headed to San Francisco to seek his fortune in 1848. He decided to start his own coining operations so he bought the necessary equipment and began issuing coins with his name on them.
Dubosq brought a coining operation – machinery for the melting of gold dust and ore, as well as a coining press and other equipment he would need. The need for striking private gold coins was immense in California then. Dubosq and Company arrived in San Francisco in 1849.
Because no one was striking Gold coinage in Denver in 1858, the Clark brothers and Emanuel Gruber formed a company to assay and mint coins. After shipping equipment from Philadelphia to Denver in 1860, they were ready to begin operations.

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