The First American Coins – Templeton Reid Gold Coins

Through Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez for PCGS ……

Privately minted gold coins from the first decades of United States have always intrigued numismatists. Although these coins were not struck by the Currency of the United States, they were an integral part of the regional economic systems in which they circulated. And while many associate privately struck gold with the American West (where the famous California Gold Rush occurred from the late 1840s), fewer people may be familiar with the Southern Gold Rush and the privately minted coins it inspired.

It was here that gold was discovered in massive quantities starting in the late 1820s and spawning a major run for the yellow precious metal in places like the north Georgia and western North Carolina. Tens of thousands of people flocked from all over the young United States to claim gold, causing entire cities to spring up overnight around these golden hotspots. The gold rush (s) in Georgia and North Carolina ultimately led to the establishment of the first United States Mint branch in Dahlonega (Georgia) and Charlotte (North Carolina) in 1838.

But long before the production of federally minted gold coins began in the South in the late 1830s, newly mined – and mined – southern gold was locally analyzed, refined, and minted by private companies. .

This privately minted gold coin was popular with locals, who demanded strong silver in gold denominations. While the United States Mint has been minting gold coins since 1795, there weren’t necessarily enough of these coins to meet demand in places like Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee, where thousands of gold-hungry pioneers settled – some permanently. To meet this demand, enterprising private assemblers began to issue their own gold coins to be distributed as circulating currency.

One of these entrepreneurs was a Georgian jeweler and gunsmith named Templeton Reid, whose minting operations lasted from July to October 1830. The exact number of coins he minted is unknown, but production included coins denominated at $ 2.50 (quarter eagle), $ 5 (half eagle) and $ 10 (Eagle). Contemporary accounts from Reid’s day suggest that his output was substantial; an account of 1831 in the Official newspaper of Philadelphia cream suggested he minted some $ 200,000 in gold coins. However, the research of the numismatist Dexter C. Seymour indicates a much smaller mintage totaling approximately 1,000 quarter eagles, 300 half eagles, and 250 eagles.

Over time, however, the vast majority were melted down for their precious metal content, leaving very little today for numismatists to study or collect.

The purity of the gold itself is also confusing. It is believed that Reid did not accurately measure the gold he used to make his coins, but struck them from the gold virtually as it was recovered – mixed with other metals, as they are found in nature.

According to the numismatic author Walter BreenReid’s 1830 coin gold was about 0.942 fine, purer than the standard of 0.917 used by the government to make federal mint. This, coupled with the fact that Reid’s coins were physically larger (if only slightly) than their federally issued counterparts, would have made these private coins worth more than their value. nominal from the point of view of ingots.

Yet many of his contemporaries claimed that Reid produced coins containing less gold than the face value suggested. This claim, along with the fallacious belief that it was illegal for Reid to mint his coins (the United States Constitution prohibited states, not individuals, from producing coins), led many to be wary of coins. Reid and not to trust them.

Although Reid produced his gold issues dated 1830 for a few months, these were not the last coins to bear his name.

As the 1830s melted into the 1940s, the gold rush cooled in northern Georgia as local production of precious metals dried up. But the fever was about to rise again, this time 2,500 miles west in California territory. This is where a new gold rush began in the late 1840s, attracting thousands of fortune seekers to try their luck and get rich there. A new generation of territorial gold coins also emerged from the California Gold Rush, comprising at least two gold coins bearing the name “Templeton Reid”. These coins include $ 10 and $ 25, with only one genuine example of each ever recorded.

Some have long believed that Reid traveled to California to capitalize on the gold rush and minted coins in the west. But many numismatic experts believe it would have been impractical for the intrepid but ill silversmith of Georgia, who in 1849 was nearly 60 years old and suffering from various debilitating illnesses. Surely he would have been physically unable to make such a long trip at a time when boats and cattle wagons were the only means of travel from rural Georgia to the rugged Pacific coast.

So what’s the story behind these two Templeton Reid coins with a date of 1849 and the inscription “CALIFORNIA GOLD”?

The most likely explanation is that a small amount of gold ore from California reached Reid, who decided to turn it into gold coins with markings that honor their Californian origin. These gold coins were of lower purity than his previous coins, Reid’s Californian gold coins being estimated by him at a titer of 0.893; a United States Mint estimate suggested their purity was only 0.871.

Unfortunately, only the location of 1849 10 $ Templeton Reid California Gold currency are known. The $ 25 counterpart of the gold coin was stolen from his home in the United States Coin Cabinet Collection August 16, 1858 and has never been found. The mystery surrounding the 1849 $ 25 Templeton Reid California Gold play continues today, with few responses and many are hoping that the play might still eventually appear. Meanwhile, others believe the $ 25 coin may have been melted down for its bullion content soon after it was released from the Mint collection. PCGS has long offered a reward of $ 10,000 to the person submitting the elusive rarity for scoring and authentication.

While the numismatic world awaits the recovery of the $ 1849 25 Templeton Reid gold coin, collectors like to pursue the other rare Templeton Reid gold coin which comes up from time to time through public auctions and private transactions. . Of the coins dated 1830, there are perhaps 15 specimens in total at $ 2.50, with six $ 5 issues and five known $ 10 coins. Three $ 10 coins exist without a date. While the authentic 1849 $ 10 gold coin is unique, there are copper, silver, and base metal copies that were produced from dies forged by the coin dealer. Stephen K. Nagy at the very beginning of the 1900s.

Meanwhile, PCGS has graded a total of 18 Templeton Reid gold coins. Certainly, these coins are highly sought after by collectors of territorial and private gold coins. Among the 1,830 $ 2.50 coins, a most famous PCGS MS61 specimen set the denomination record when it made $ 480,000 USD in February 2020 by Kagin auction. Of the six known $ 5 specimens, two reside in Smithsonian Institution, leaving only four in private hands; one of these coins, an example classified as genuine by PCGS, cost $ 204,000 in August 2019 Stack’s Bowers Galleries auction. The equally rare 1830 Templeton Reid $ 10 Gold Coin rarely traded hands in public auctions, with the last such transaction taking place at a Bowers & Merena event where an EF40 specimen cost $ 90,750 in 1984.

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