California Gold Rush bar brings $140,400 at Bonhams Los Angeles auction

Market Analysis: Set of 95 uncertified Morgan dollars brings $128,700
By , Coin World
Published : 06/20/16
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A hefty gold ingot produced during the Gold Rush by San Francisco’s Kellogg and Humbert, Assayers, sold for $140,400, leading Bonhams’ June 6 Coins and Medals auction in Los Angeles.

The handsome bar, recovered from the SS Central America shipwreck, measures 98 by 42 by 30 millimeters. To put its size in perspective, it is roughly longer than a credit card — as the description notes, small enough to fit comfortably in one’s hand.

Its weight and purity was marked on its face: 68.11 ounces of .886 fine gold, a value of $1,247.44, and serial number 920.

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These gold bars aren’t graded on the 1 to 70 Sheldon scale as typically seen for coins; rather, the descriptions used to identify them are more exact, noting the color — “Rich yellow-gold overall with some deep russet-brown scale on the back,” along with more specific particulars.

For example, a corner was taken for assay reasons when this bar was produced, and the description notes the bar exhibits “typical casting indentation at the center caused by shrinkage of the metal when it cooled in the mold, upper viewer’s right corner taken for assay purposes.”

These gold bars remain extremely popular with collectors today for the “wow factor” they provide in combining shipwreck history, California gold mining, and the heft of a piece of gold larger than most have ever seen or held.

Another lot also held interest for those intrigued with California history.

A silver 1856 San Francisco Vigilance Committee membership medal sold for $23,400. The obverse depicts Justice, standing, and the reverse depicts the Great Seal of the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance, comprising the All Seeing Eye in the center and a tablet below on which the member’s number — in this case 1884 — is recorded. The committee was formed in 1851 and revived in 1856, responding to crime and corruption in the local government.

The medal is one of just 10 numbered and five unnumbered examples known. The catalog added that the committee “was one of the most successful organizations in the vigilante tradition of the American Old West” and its membership of 700 “claimed to operate in parallel to, and in defiance of, the duly constituted city government.”

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