The concept of striking coins from locally gathered metals— familiar to collectors of United States pioneer gold coins— is not unique to the United States.
German coinage includes many examples of “locally sourced” metal being used to make coins, including two gold ducats from Munich that recently sold in Sincona AG’s auction No. 18, on May 22.
One, an 1830 ducat, which weighs 3.48 grams and grades Extremely Fine to Good EF (according to the auction firm), sold as lot 1246 and realized 6,325 Swiss francs (about $7,085 in U.S. funds) against an estimate of 5,500 Swiss francs.
The other, lot 1256, an 1842 ducat, realized 2,990 Swiss francs (about $3,349 U.S.) against an estimate of 2,500 Swiss francs. The 1842 ducat weighs 3.49 grams and was graded by the auction house as EF.
These so-called “river gold” pieces were minted from alluvial gold in placer deposits in German rivers.
Gold panning or “washing” was a relatively lucrative business in 19th century Germany, with 83 kilograms recovered in the Grand Duchy of Baden alone, according to Lutz Neumann, an advisor to Sincona.
The gold was minted into ducats that bore the name of the rivers from which the gold came.
This practice was an extension of the tradition of naming the source of the precious metal used to mint a coin or medal, whether the coin made reference to a general mining area such as the Harz Mountains or very specific mines located in different German mining districts, according to the auction house.
Making coins from river gold
Three main sources of the river gold aer identified: the Rhine, the Danube and tributaries, and the Eder in North Hessen, according to Neumann.