The S.S. Central America
Ingots of Gold

Despite the near mint state condition of a wide variety of rare coins, the most unusual element of the Central America treasure may be the hundreds of "assay ingots." These range from pocket-sized, such as the small, rectangular five-ounce Blake & Company ingots produced in Sacramento, to a massive, 63-pound, "two by four" (2 by 4 by 11 ½ inches) ingot from Justh and Hunter. Their purity varies as widely as their size, differing from 580 find (just over half gold) to the 973 fine (indicating a nearly pure gold value).

Although less common in the consumer marketplace than the coins, the ingots are as revealing of the era and are also more unusual in that they are all in private issue. Many began as dust and nuggets in the pockets of miners, who brought the raw gold to private assayers for weighting and valuation. The assayers melted down the gold, molded it into ingots, and then shaved off a corner for their commission and to measure the purity. Finally they would stamps the gold with unique identifying marks, indicating the weight, purity, and value, as well as their own maker's marks, and return the ingots to the owners. Gold in this form was the preferred type shipped to banks and other businesses, as well as the US government. Commercial shippers also brought their gold to private assayers, but did so in larger allotments. Five assayers are represented in the treasure of the Central America: Blake and Company, Kellogg & Humbert, Justh and Hunter, Harris, Marchand & Company, and Henry Henstch.

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