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Handwritten Letter Discussing use of “California Gold” Coinage 1857

This is a very interesting item that shows somewhat the difficulty in conducting long-range commercial transactions prior to the Civil War. Additionally, and more germane to the interests of many who would visit our site, the letter also discusses California gold coinage that has “United States” written on it. The letter states, in part-

“I sent $250.00 I notice there are a few pieces of California gold subject to discount so I learned to day. I thought those pieces of California gold having “United States” on them were worth the face. If you can take them without discount so good; but would rather have the discount than goods at higher rates to make it up. I will take no more except at their real value.”

The twin requirements of California gold and having “United States” on them, along with the date of the letter (March 13, 1857) leaves a few options as to what might have been included in payment. If they were San Francisco branch mint coins they would likely have been accepted with no discount and this portion of the letter would not have been written. Perhaps the most likely candidates, which fill the requirements placed into the letter, would be the United States Assay Office (Augustus Humbert Moffat & Co.) coins of 1851-1852 and/or the United States Assay Office (Curtis, Perry and Ward) coins of 1852-1853.

The letter is written on a single sheet of light blue paper that is folded in half vertically to produce four writing surfaces, or pages, of approximately 8” x 10” each. The text on the first page is faded. The entire first page and most of the second page are used. There are additional folds in the paper such that it is broken into twelve roughly equal sized panes. There are later notations written in pencil regarding California private gold.


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Numismatic Americana Incorporated
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William Shamhart, Jr.
email: Bill@numismaticamericana.com

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