concept of striking coins from locally gathered metals— familiar to
collectors of United States pioneer gold coins— is not unique to the
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.
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.
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.
so-called “river gold” pieces were minted from alluvial gold in placer
deposits in German rivers.
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.
gold was minted into ducats that bore the name of the rivers from
which the gold came.
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
main sources of the river gold aer identified: the Rhine, the Danube
and tributaries, and the Eder in North Hessen, according to Neumann.
gold found on the banks of the Rhine originated in the Swiss Alps, and
gold can still be panned in the Rhine today.
first German coin that bears an inscription denoting its gold origin
is a half ducat from the Electors of the Palatinate minted in Heidelberg.
the reverse, under the coat of arms is EX A RH, indicating “Ex Aureum
Rheni,” which means “From Gold of the Rhine.”
from the Electors of the Palatinate, the Grand Duchy of Baden, the
Archbishops of Mainz and the Kingdom of Bavaria also minted coins from
source of river gold was the Danube and its tributaries, the Isar and
the Inn. The gold found here also originated in the Alps and has been
harvested since medieval times.
very limited amount of gold was recovered from the Eder River in North Hessen.
gold originated from the Eisenberg (Iron Mountain) near Korbach in the
Prinipality of Waldeck. The coins were minted by the Landgraves (later
Electors) of Hesse-Kassel.
practice of striking gold ducat coins from alluvial gold continued
from 1674 until 1863, with different cities striking coins at various
times and quantities, with the river not always identified as the
source on earlier coins.
first ducats carrying the name of a river were minted in 1756 in
Munich, from gold harvested in the Danube River. All these coins have
various dies, combinations and variants, Neumann said.
addition, several medals were made from river gold, as well as from
silver recovered as a by-product of the refining of the river gold.
to Neumann, an “exhaustive, excellent” monograph on the subject is
Erläuterter Katalog der deutschen Flussgold-Gepräge (the
"Illustrated Catalog of German River Gold") by Franz
Kirchheimer, which is available for loan from the American Numismatic
work provides a detailed, condensed list of the various issues from
the three major rivers, details that are also scattered throughout
listings in Gold Coins of the World by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg.
ducats in the recent auction were struck for Bavaria, which had just
taken over the city of Speyer in 1816. Two slightly different skyline
views of Speyer along the River Rhine appear on the reverse of the
coins, the Speyer Cathedral at the center of the scenes. Both coins
carry the date of issue in Roman numerals and a Latin reference to the
origin of the gold, EX AURO RHENI on the reverse.
1830 ducat, cataloged as Friedberg 275, shows a young head of Bavarian
King Ludwig I on the obverse. The 1842 ducat shows the older head of
perhaps little known, the coins are interesting artifacts of gold
panning along the Rhine in 19th century Europe.
full results of the auction, visit Sincona’s website, email the firm, or telephone it at
(011) 41 44 215 252.