Original California Gold
Rush gold used to make commemorative "coins"
Authentic California Gold Rush era gold
from the S.S. Central America's sunken treasure, vintage coin-making tools and
an eight ton coin press have been used in San Francisco to produce special
commemorative gold pieces that now are available to the public. The gold is
from the recovered cargo of the Central America, the fabled "Ship of Gold,"
that sank in 1857 while carrying tons of Gold Rush treasure on a voyage to New
Some of the sunken treasure gold bars (ingots) have been used to
produce commemorative gold pieces for the California Historical Society of San
Francisco and the California Gold Marketing Group of Newport Beach. The design
of the commemoratives is based on a rare $50 denomination gold "slug"
originally made in 1855 on Montgomery Street in San Francisco by well-known
assayers and coiners of the day, Kellogg & Company.
Each commemorative gold piece contains 2.5
ounces of pure Gold Rush era gold from large ingots created in 1857 by Kellogg
& Humbert, the successor firm to Kellogg & Company. The big gold bars
were among the tons of treasure recovered in the 1980s from the Central America
that sank in a hurricane in September 1857 about 160 miles off the North
A certificate of authenticity from the California
Historical Society accompanies each gold piece. The project is expected to
raise up to a quarter-million dollars for the nonprofit organization.
During a "first strike"
ceremony on August 20, 2001, Stephen Becker, Executive Director of the
California Historical Society, pressed the buttons on the coin press to strike
the first specimen.
Other VIPs participating in the striking included
American Numismatic Association (ANA) Executive Director Edward C. Rochette;
Former ANA and Professional Numismatists Guild President Q. David Bowers;
former ANA President David L. Ganz; Bob Chandler of the Wells Fargo Bank
History Museum; and Pat Keats of the California Pioneers Society.
"To preserve the ingots' historical
assayers' marks for posterity, the faces of the bars were carefully cut and
milled. We permanently retained a layer of gold that contains the fundamental
information, such as the ingot's weight and fineness, as well as the Kellogg
& Humbert imprint," explained Dwight Manley, Managing Partner of the
California Gold Marketing Group.
Formal striking of the commemoratives
began on August 20, the 144th anniversary of the exact date the gold sailed
from San Francisco harbor aboard the S.S. Sonora on its journey to Panama.
After reaching Panama, it then was taken by railroad to the Central America for
its uncompleted, fabled voyage to New York City.
The "first strike"
ceremony was held at The Presidio overlooking San Francisco Bay. The
commemoratives are being made on a 16,000-pound press previously used at the
San Francisco Mint between 1973 and 1998.
Only a dozen original 1855
Kellogg $50 gold coins are known to exist, and some have traded for as much as
$300,000. The new commemorative's design is slightly modified to differentiate
it from the 1855 original.
The ribbon in the eagle's
beak on the back of the new pieces contains the inscriptions "S.S. CENTRAL
AMERICA GOLD" and "C.H.S." for California Historical Society. There is no
inscription on the ribbon in the original 1855 design.
In addition, a special counterstamp is
being applied to each gold piece indicating the date it was struck during the
24 days of production, August 20 to September 12, 2001, coinciding with the
same days the gold was in transit in 1857.
"These magnificent coins,
made using the original tools and gold from this important era of our country,
will let people literally hold the Gold Rush in their hands," said Stephen
Becker, Executive Director of the California Historical Society. "We're
thrilled to help history come alive by bringing this project to San Francisco."
The Central America's recovered cargo contained 330 Kellogg &
Humbert ingots. About 60 of them, each weighing roughly 200 to 500 ounces, have
been used to produce the planchets for the gold commemoratives.
suggested retail price of the spectacular Kellogg $50 gold commemoratives is
$5,000. They can be purchased from:
Merena Gallieries, Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. (800) 458-4646
Metals, Newport Beach, California. (800) 489-0839
Universal Coin &
Bullion, Beaumont, Texas. (800) 459-2646
Information about the
California Historical Society, 678 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94105, is
available at (415) 357-1848 or at www.calhist.org.