US Coins

Trekking to Private Bechtler mint in North Carolina

The Joys of Collecting column from Feb. 29, 2016, Weekly issue of Coin World:

Pursuing his own interests and satisfying his curiosity, geologist and adventurer George W. Featherstonhaugh visited the private Bechtler Mint in Rutherfordton, N.C., in 1837.

He penned this account later published in two volumes whimsically titled A Canoe Voyage Up the Minnay Sotor.

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Quite a few years ago I bought these copies. The other day, more or less by chance, I came across the text on the Internet.

My gosh, how simple can research get? I share his account (excerpted):

“After breakfast I walked a few miles to visit a German of the name of [Christopher] Bechtler. I passed a great part of the day with him at his cottage in the woods. He had resided seven years in this country and had established for himself a character for integrity as well as skill in his profession. I found him rather mystical and imaginative, as many Germans are. 

“The greater part of the small streams in this part of the gold region have more or less gold in them. Bechtler had obtained some in the usual manner, and having made a die, coined his gold into five dollar pieces. At the period of my visit his gold coin circulated more freely than that of the United States, which were very scarce. 

“It would be in his power to take improper advantage of the confidence placed in him, but I heard of no instances of his having attempted this. When I mentioned the possibility of this, he answered that it was what an honest man would not do, and that if any man were to do it, he would soon be found out, for the gold did not remain long in circulation, since if found its way very soon to the United States Mint, where it was necessary for him to keep a good character.” 

“I never was so pleased with observing transactions of business as those I saw at his house during the time I was there. Several country people came in with rough gold to be left for coinage. He waited before them and entered it in his book, where there was marginal room for noting the subsequent assay.

“To others he delivered the coin he had struck. The most perfect confidence prevailed betwixt them, and the transactions were conducted with quite as much simplicity as those at a country grist mill, where the miller deducts [his fee] for the grist he has manufactured.”  

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