Bank's pioneer gold collection rivals Smithsonian's

Brasher Bulletin examines San Francisco’s Union Bank holdings
Published : 03/25/12
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The pioneer gold collection of Union Bank in San Francisco rivals that of the National Numismatic Collection in the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History, according to an article in the February issue of Brasher Bulletin, the journal of the Society of Private and Pioneer Numismatics.

The article, reprinted with permission from the winter issue of Union Bank’s Connect magazine, details the contents of the Bank of California Museum, located below the main floor of the Union Bank. The collection includes not only pioneer gold coins, but also historic artifacts that chronicle the life and times of the bank’s founder, William Chapman Ralston.

Among the highlights of the collection are an 1849 Mormon pioneer gold $20 coin, an 1849 Oregon Exchange Co. gold $10 piece, an 1851 Baldwin & Co. gold $20 coin and an 1851 Augustus Humbert $50 octagonal gold slug.

Another article focuses on two sites that collectors and history buffs may visit that relate to John Sutter, on whose California property gold was first discovered in California — Sutter’s Fort, built in 1839 in what is now Sacramento, and Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, where James Marshall discovered gold in 1848.

The mill is now located within Marshall Gold Discovery State Park, located in Coloma on Highway 49, between Placerville and Auburn, about an hour northeast of Sacramento. Visitors to this park can pan for gold in the American River, see a replica of the original sawmill and more than a dozen other historic buildings, and check out the actual site where James Marshall discovered gold. A museum on site is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday year-round. Visit for more information.

With the discovery of gold in 1848, Sutter’s Fort was largely deserted, and all that was left a decade later was the central building. Restoration efforts in the 1890s returned Sutter’s Fort to its 1846 appearance. The fort is located in Sacramento, between K and L streets, and 26th and 28th streets. It is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit for more information on Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park.

A virtual tour of the fort can be found at

SPPN is a collector-based, nonprofit organization comprising approximately 165 members. The organization holds an annual meeting each summer during the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money. Membership benefits include an annual printed compilation of the Brasher Bulletin, a monthly e-newsletter that features articles submitted by members, who count among their number the nation’s leading private and pioneer coin experts and historians.

The club also sponsors the Pioneer Gold Forum, a panel of pioneer gold experts assembled to vet various controversial pioneer-related numismatic materials.

The SPPN welcomes all who are interested in private and pioneer numismatics. Annual membership details can be obtained by email at ■

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