Medal a reminder of wild west vigilante justice, offered with pieces of prospecting history

Holabird auction includes nugget tokens, gold nuggets, mining memorabilia
By , Coin World
Published : 11/28/16
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One of just 10 known numbered examples of the 1856 San Francisco Committee of Vigilance silver medal is among the 2,657 lots to be offered in the Western Americana Safari in Reno, Nev., Dec. 9 to 12 by Holabird Western Americana Collections LLC.

The sale also includes nugget tokens, gold nuggets, stock certificates and other mining memorabilia.

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The buyer’s fee is 21 percent added to the final closing hammer price of each lot won if payment is by cash, check, money order or wire transfer. For all other forms of payment, the buyer’s fee is 24 percent.

Committee of Vigilance

The 37.1-millimeter Committee of Vigilance silver medal, looped at the top for suspension, is inscribed 1884 on a plaque on the reverse. The piece is 3.5 to 3.7 millimeters thick with a plain edge and weighs 26.219 grams. The estimate is $25,000 to $35,000.

The medal's obverse depicts Justice as a classically gowned woman with scales held in left hand and a sword in her right. Inscribed around the top border is BE JUST AND FEAR NOT. FIAT JUSTITIA RUAT COELUM. Engraved in the space below the base on which Justice stands is SAN FRANCISCO / CALIFORNIA. To the left of the sword, on the base, is inscribed V & G, the hallmark for the manufacturer Vachon & Gihon.

The reverse depicts the Great Seal of the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance, comprising the all-seeing eye in the center and a scroll below to receive the member’s number. COMMITTEE OF VIGILANCE is above the eye and around the top is ORGANIZED 9TH JUNE 1851. REORGANIZED 14TH MAY 1856. 

Created in 1851 to clean up corruption in San Francisco, the committee was disbanded the same year by gubernatorial edict because the committee used unlawful means in its attempts to extinguish from the city crime and people it considered undesirable.

The committee was resurrected in 1856 after newspaper editor James King of William was shot to death by James P. Casey, one of the city’s thugs that King had called out in the pages of his newspaper, the  Daily Evening Bulletin.

The Committee of Vigilance immediately enrolled 2,600 members, expanding that number eventually to more than 7,000.

According to the auction lot description, “It was said that every man who held a municipal position was elected by fraudulent means that were orchestrated by Casey. The first act of the Vigilance Committee was to hold their own election and replace every elected official in San Francisco. Their next act was to retrieve Casey from the local jail (where he was put in protective custody). The sheriff seeing canons and companies of men surrounding his building gave up Casey. Casey was tried and hung. The Governor of California soon declared the city of San Francisco to be in a state of insurrection. He ordered a militia be secured, but he could not find 150 men to fill its ranks. The Committee continued to deport undesirable characters and hang the most offensive. Late in 1856 the Vigilance Committee disbanded having successfully completed their mission to once again restore law and order to the streets of San Francisco and to clean up the corrupt government of the city.”

Nugget token

Among the nugget tokens is a 31-millimeter copper token issued in Anchorage, Alaska, by the jewelry firm of Walter A. Lord Co. The tokens were struck without a gold nugget or a 4-millimeter loop by the token manufacturer that supplied the tokens to Lord. After receiving the struck tokens in 1923, the jeweler soldered gold nuggets received from local miners on some of the tokens and added a loop to the token. 

The example offered in the Holabird sale has a gold nugget and loop added. The piece is described as in About Uncirculated 55 condition.

The token has an estimate of $2,000 to $3,000.

Placer gold

Offered with an estimate of $750 to $1,100 is a 0.51-ounce oddly shaped placer gold nugget resembling a hammer.

The 25-millimeter by 24-millimeter nugget was retrieved from the Yuba River near Sierra City, Calif.

Stock certificate

Among the stock certificates offered is one issued Nov. 3, 1867, by the Rozencrans & Antelope Extension Gold & Silver Mining Co. in Aurora, Calif., to investor George A. Clark for 600 shares at $200 per share. According to the auction lot description, while the company issued 600 total shares, the stock certificate issued to Clark was  No. 23, suggesting additional shares were sold to raise additional capital.

Appearing on either side of the central mining company vignette are etched imprints of Coronet gold $20 double eagles.

The stock certificate is signed by Willam M. Davis as mining company secretary and A.S. Lotopeieh as company president.

The stock certificate has an estimate of $1,000 to $2,000.

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