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87.17-Ounce Kellogg and Humbert Gold Ingot
87.17-Ounce Kellogg and Humbert Gold Ingot Recovered From
the S.S. Central America. CAGB-409. This
ingot made by the California assayer-coiners Kellogg & Humbert
has a stamped serial number 248, weight of 87.17 ounces with
fineness of 923 (923/1000ths), for a nominal or face (melt) value
in 1857 of $1,663.21.
Recovered From the S.S. Central America
Made Between 1854 and 1857
In today's terms (as of December 1, 2011), with gold hovering around $1,750 an ounce, the melt value would work out to 80.46 ounces of pure gold, with a bullion value of $140,800. Of course, such mercenary measures border on sacrilege to collectors of various stripes, to whom these ingots are immeasurably more valuable than "mere melt" as historic mementos of the headiest days of the California Gold Rush.
Like all ingots recovered from the doomed steamship S.S. Central America, this one is described by Q. David Bowers in the Appendix to his reference: "Large-size ingot. Inscriptions on face. Vertically oriented. Reverse stamped with repetition of serial number, but in different font."
The ingot shows interesting coloration, light veins of reddish-brown covering much of the surface in an irregular pattern. Other smaller areas display rich burgundy patination. The assayers' nameplate is stamped in a rectangle as KELLOGG / & / HUMBERT / ASSAYERS, with ASSAYERS in a different and slightly smaller font from the rest. The CAGB number derives from the massive Bowers reference, A California Gold Rush History featuring the treasure from the S.S. Central America. Two assayers' test cuts, small diagonal slices through opposite corners, one on each end, are seen on all such ingots.
This assayer's ingot is undated; again, as all such, since they were merely a convenient rectangular storage form of the most transient nature, usually intended for melting at the other end of a commercial journey. The ingot was made between late 1854 and September 1857, the bookends being the foundation of the firm of Kellogg & Humbert and the foundering of the S.S. Central America on Sept. 12, 1857.
John Grover Kellogg arrived in California on October 12, 1849, and first went to work for Moffat & Co. By late December 1853, he set up the Kellogg & Richter firm with George F. Richter, a government assayer, just a few days after the United States Assay Office had closed. Kellogg & Richter produced many twenty dollar coins during early 1854, a period during which the San Francisco Mint had not yet opened and no other private firm was issuing coinage. Kellogg & Humbert was organized in late 1854 with partner Augustus Humbert, the former U.S. assayer of gold. Their place of business was 108 Montgomery St., San Francisco.
Given the excellent credentials of both Kellogg and Humbert, and the large number of Kellogg & Humbert ingots recovered from the Central America shipwreck, it is clear that many bankers, or private depositors who desired ingots rather than coinage, placed their faith in the firm to produce ingots of high quality and reliable assay.
Heritage has been privileged to offer numerous examples of the ingots of various California assayers in the past that were recovered from the Central America. But we find that as time goes by, it seems that fewer and fewer of these massive, important gold bricks are leaving their owners. For potential bidders who someday desire to own one of these historic ingots, we suggest that "sooner" may be wiser than "later."
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