California Money

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California Money

The early years of the California Gold Rush ushered the constant need for coinage to meet the commercial needs of a growing community based on gold dust. Many firms issued coins ranging from $2 to $50 denominations, but there was still a need for money of smaller denominations.

California Gold Rush Facts

  • Gold coin prices reached an all-time high in California at the start of the Gold Rush
  • Gold-seekers traveled from all over the globe in the Gold Rush
  • The population of San Francisco grew as settlers arrived
  • Early Gold-seekers used simple techniques, such as panning to retrieve gold
  • Some people became rich unfortunately most did not
  • The earliest known mention of gold coins in denominations of 25 cents, 50 cents, and one dollar was on the article, which appeared in the Alta California on August 25, 1852.
  • A time capsule of monetary conditions during this period was provided by the wreck of the Steamer known as the Winfield Scott.
  • Several coins minted in 1853, which completed the denominations of 25 cents, 50 cents, and one dollar were both octagonal and round in shapes.
  • All of the California coins dated after 1860 were underweight and sometimes had a deficiency in intrinsic value.
  • Silver quarters and a half dollars were issued in quantity by the new San Francisco Mint in the late 1850s.
  • The San Francisco Mint continued to sell these issued currencies to everyone until 1873.
  • The number of fortune-seekers from different parts of the globe in the Gold Rush brought a wide range of minor changes in circulation, which was distributed by size and not intrinsic value.

Silver Coins

While foreign silver coins were imported and used as a change in the west, this trade with a plethora of coins proved to be confusing, and many of these pieces were interestingly worth less than their entire value. In 1854, the United States established a branch mint in San Francisco wherein 15,000 $1 pieces were coined.

Over a year later, the United States issued $150,000 worth of silver coins in California, with most being stored or exported. Scholars further added over 450 varieties of coins are known to have existed in California, with dates between 1852 and 1882. These coins were mostly anonymous and can only be recognized by initials but continuous studies over the years have made it possible to allude most of the issues to manufacturing jewelers in San Francisco, California.

Interestingly, these coins were also attributed to jewelers in New Orleans, New York, and Leavenworth Kansas. Historians mentioned that some of these coins were engraved by Albert Kuner and Ferdinand Gruner as well. This is because most of the fractional coins were carved by the hammer method, which was relatively similar to the Pacific Company issues.

Technically, the hammer method was a process of striking a bottom die together with a coin blank using a sledgehammer. Blows of different intensities would subsequently result for potions of the edge or one side to be more weakly struck than the other. Many coins done by the hammer method were very crude in design and often had holes.

More often than not, these small pieces varied in fineness from 14 carats or 583 thousandths beautiful to 22 carats. These small pieces contained substantially less gold than their face value which relatively in them being a form of token.

While there are questions regarding the circulation of these coins, several historians believe that some of these pieces were distributed as coins in the 1850s in California. On the flip side, other scholars concluded that some of these coins were not circulated but were made for souvenir purposes and later as a piece of jewelry.

What are the earliest known private gold coins?
The earliest known private gold coins were in denominations of 25 cents, 50 cents, and one dollar.

When did the San Francisco Mint stop selling issued coins?
The San Francisco Mint stopped selling issued coins in 1873.

How many varieties of coins are known to have existed in California between 1852 and 1882?
More than 450 varieties of coins existed in California between 1852 and 1882.

When did the San Francisco Mint start issuing silver quarters and a half dollar?
The San Francisco Mint started issuing silver quarters and a half dollar in the late 1850s.

When was the San Francisco Mint establish?
The San Francisco Mint was established in 1854.