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Mormon Gold – Salt Lake City – 1849 – 1860

Mormon Gold in Salt Lake City

In 1848 a group of Mormon believers traveled from California back to Salt Lake City. Well-known among these men was James Marshall, whose discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in California started the entire gold rush. Mormons in California for the gold rush founded their own town called Mormon Island and gold was found there too. This was the gold that found its way back to Salt Lake City. The elders of the Church of Latter-Day Saints were tasked with deciding what to do with the gold. They wisely decided to take the gold dust and assay it and strike it into coinage.

So the very 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.

The coins were struck on the obverse with a three-pointed Phrygian crown, symbolic of the Mormon priesthood, above the all-seeing Eye of God.  Around the periphery is “HOLINESS TO THE LORD”.

The reverse depicts two clasped hands, with the date “1849” below them and the legend has “G. S. L. C. P. G. – TWO. AND. HALF. DO.” meaning “Great Salt Lake City Pure Gold”.

(1849 Mormon $2.50 Gold Coin. Obverse [left], Reverse [right].)

Later in 1849, a $5.00 Gold Coin was also struck. This coin was exactly like the $2.59 coin except that the denomination changed from “TWO. AND. HALF. DO” to “FIVE DOLLARS.”

The design of the reverse was exactly the same as on the smaller denomination.

(1849 Mormon $5.00 Gold Coin. Obverse [left], Reverse [right].)

They then struck a $10.00 denomination gold coin. The obverse was exactly the same except that the size of the coin was obviously larger. The reverse had several changes, however. Around the periphery was “PURE GOLD – TEN DOLLARS” which certainly simplified the symbolism.

(1849 Mormon $10.00 Gold Coin. Obverse [left], Reverse [right].)

Finally, the largest size and denomination Mormon coin dated 1849 was struck. It was a $20.00 gold coin. Once again, the obverse was larger but similar in design. The reverse had the same design as prior, but around the periphery were “G. S. L. C. P. G.” and “TWENTY. DOLLARS”.

(1849 Mormon $20.00 Gold Coin. Obverse [left], Reverse [right].)

In 1850, another $5.00 gold coin was struck. The obverse design was modified significantly. The Phrygian cap was modified and a halo was added over the All-Seeing Eye of God. The reverse still had the two hands shaking and the date “1850” under them. Around the periphery was “G. S. L. C. P. G.” for “Great Salt Lake City Pure Gold” with the denomination at the bottom periphery “FIVE DOLLARS.”

(1850 Mormon $5.00 Gold Coin. Obverse [left], Reverse [right].)

The last coin to be struck by this Mormon community didn’t occur for another 10 years. In 1860, another $5.00 gold coin was struck and it was the last of the Mormon gold. However, this coin was completely re-designed.

The obverse now bore a depiction of a seated lion, lying on a field of grass, facing left. Around the periphery was “HOLINESS TO THE LORD” but it was written using the new Deseret alphabet.

The reverse depicts an eagle with its wings spread and it had a Mormon beehive on its chest. The legend “DESERET ASSAY OFFICE PURE GOLD” was around the periphery.  

(1860 Mormon $5.00 Gold Coin. Obverse [left], Reverse [right].)

But Mormon Gold had experienced problems gaining acceptance outside the Mormon community. Unlike most private gold coins the 1849 and 1850 dated pieces were only about .800 fine in purity. It is believed that because the Mormons were not experienced assayers or minters, they were unaware that the gold out of the ground was, itself, not pure.

The 1860 $5.00 gold coins were said to be .917 fine and these pieces because they were now aware of the problem, were now assayed with Silver. But outside of Salt Lake City, they all were only accepted at a steep discount.

As the coins traveled back to the East, they were melted in large quantities. Of the approximately 4,000 total coins minted, probably less than 500 total coins exist today.

DateTypeMintageFine ValueUnc Value

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