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07 May 2015

The Private Minters of the GA Gold Rush

Coins-United States | user_5712

Our story begins with the discovery of Gold in Georgia in 1828. By 1829, the Georgia gold rush had begun. Gold mining became well organized in the states of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. But once the bullion gold was uncovered, the finders were at a loss to know what to do with it.

Some of the gold was exported to other countries. However, for the gold to have actual trade value in America, it would have to be properly and officially assayed and made into a coin. The only way this could be done was to send the gold to the Philadelphia mint, but this was not an easy task.

Several things contributed to the expenses and problems of sending gold to Philadelphia: the lengthy distance between the states, stagecoach thieves, and the possibility of other dangers. Usually the average miner would accompany the stagecoach to Philadelphia for a lower risk of bandits stealing the gold. But this would deprive the miner of months of his work. Then the miner sending the gold had to pay the high cost of getting his gold coined.

The miner also had the option of selling the gold locally. Because the local buyers were assuming all the risks, they paid the miners a fraction of the gold’s value. But this was unfair to the miner, considering the monstrous profit made by the buyer. With the need for coinage and the amount of raw gold bullion in communities, coin shortages were common in most new boom towns.

Templeton Reid decided to build the private mint that would stop the trade halting coin shortages. A previous watch and clock repairs-man, Reid operated out of Milligeville, GA. On July 24th, 1830, an article ran in the Southern Recorder stating that Reid’s private mint was producing $700 worth of gold daily. A short time later, Reid moved his mint to Gainsville, GA, to be closer to the actual sites yielding the gold.

On August the 16th, 1830, a letter that had been sent to the Editor of The Georgia Journal was published in that date’s issue. It was written by an anonymous author pen named “No Assayer”, who criticized Reid’s gold coinage. “No Assayer” claimed he shipped one of Reid’s $10 gold coins to the Philadelphia mint and had it “properly” assayed where the he found out that the gold it contained was valued At $9.38. “No Assayer” also discredited Reid for making a 7% profit off of minting the gold coins, but this seems improbable.

Reid, astounded by the comment written by “No Assayer”, fired back with full force in an article published by the Georgia Courier on September 11th, 1830, in which Reid attempted to save his product. Reid explained that “No Assayer” had badly miscalculated and had speculated wrongly. But this did not satisfy the public, leaving Reid vulnerable for the next attack “No Assayer” made on September 20th, 1830.

In a final ambush, “No Assayer” challenged Reid’s ability and right to privately mint coins. He claimed that Reid violated the Constitution with the opening of a private mint and that Reid had no respect for the Constitution. “No Assayer” also stated that some banks were not excepting Reid’s gold coins at their face value. This was enough to scare the public away from Reid’s facilities, forcing Reid to shut down in early October of 1830. But even in the four short months of Reid’s mint’s existence, it made an important mark on history.

Dexter Seymour, the author of The 1830 Coinage of Templeton Reid, has estimated that approximately $6,500 worth of gold was coined by Reid. In other words, he minted roughly 1,000 Quarter Eagles, 300 Half Eagles, and 250 Eagles. After “No Assayer” claimed that Reid’s coins were worth below their stamped value, most were melted, making these coins an intense rarity. Some pieces sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars in todays market.

Another famous minter is Christopher Bechtler. When Bechtler was 47, he arrived in America with his two sons and settled in Rutherford County, North Carolina. Bechtler established a business as a jeweler, gunsmith, goldsmith, etc. As Bechtler traveled the mining fields of Rutherford and its surrounding area, he noticed the lack of coinage. When the United States government denied the opening of a branch mint, Bechtler saw it as an opportunity to establish a mint of his own. In 1831, Bechtler and his sons announced that they had opened a private mint for gold only and would be manufacturing coins at once.

Bechtler knew that his reputation was on the line in each coin he minted, so honesty was the main ingredient to his mints success. Bechtler and his sons created all their minting equipment, and hand carved their dies. They also assayed the gold with their own tools. Although some Bechtler coins were off center and others poorly struck, Bechtler believed that a coin should be worth its face value. Usingthis principle, Bechtler became very popular.

In 1832, Bechtler introduced the gold dollar, a denomination the United States Mint wouldn’t adopt until 1849. Bechtler’s gold dollar is believed to be the first used in circulation in the United States. Over the next 9 years from 1831-1840 Bechtler minted over 2 million dollars worth of gold coins.

Although Bechtler mainly minted using gold from the North and South Carolinas, he also minted a handful of rare Georgia gold coins. All known specimens are of the 5 dollar denomination and have the words Georgia Gold 128. G. 22 Carats. on the obverse, and C. Bechtler 5 Dollars. At Rutherford on the reverse. There are three variations listed in The Official Guide Book of United States Coins, each variety containing a meager difference. The 5 Dollar piece shown lists for $28,000 in uncirculated condition.

Bechtler continued to mint coins until his death in 1842, when his son Augustus took over the mint. Augustus often short weighted gold coins to turn an extra profit, and was not always honest in the way he ran the mint. The Charlotte branch mint of the United States that had arrived in 1835 was now stealing business from Augustus’ mint. Augustus finally closed the mint in 1850, but Bechtler coins circulated well into the American Civil War.

These two men truly impacted the coinage of the United States. Reid was the first private minter, and Bechtler invented the Gold Dollar. Although not always reliable, these minters cleared the path for the US branch mints.

Comments

user_7579

Level 4

Thank you this info.

Mike

Level 7

Your blog really kept my attention. When you wrote it did you ever think what it would be like to be one one of those prospectors?. I did. I thought what it would be like to find a nice big nugget. Thanks to you I thought about it. It was great. Great blog lot of information thanks.

Joebear

Level 4

2 million then is like 200 million now. Cool blog.

Kepi

Level 6

Interesting blog! Thanks!

user_7180

Level 5

Great story of history involving Numismatics, Commerce, bullion and the fierce challenges faced early on this country.

Longstrider

Level 6

That is a fantastic, well researched blog. It's interesting to read that nothinig has changed in the early minting of coins. It still has the 8 most frightening words in America, "I'm from the government. I'm here to help." Just my opinion., I could be wrong!

Ian Fenn

Level 5

Agree! great blog post most informative

Juno Moneta

Level 4

Thank you for the fascinating history. It's interesting that 'civilians' got the ball rolling for gold coin in the USA. It illustrates how much silver was entrenched as a monetary standard and how short-lived gold really was.

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