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    Justh & Hunter 26.02-Ounce Ingot
    Attributed to the Marysville Office
    S.S. Central America

    Justh & Hunter Gold Ingot. 26.02 ounces. CAGB-381. 884 fineness. Former Baltimore exporter Solomon Hillen Hunter partnered with Hungarian immigrant Emil Justh to form the Justh & Hunter assay office, with locations in Marysville (managed by Hunter) and San Francisco. The Alta California newspaper announced the opening on May 15, 1855, at 188 Montgomery St., San Francisco, with an ad that read, in part, "We guarantee our assays, and bind ourselves to pay all differences arising from the same with any of the U.S. Mints. Returns made in 24 hours. Quartz and ores of every description assayed at short notice." The ad continues by mentioning Justh's experience from April 1854 (the opening date) to May 1855 as an assistant assayer at the San Francisco Mint.

    The Justh & Hunter gold ingots are the secondmost-common of the five assayers whose products were recovered from the doomed S.S. Central America, which sank in a hurricane in 1857. The San Francisco bars numbered 60 in all, compared to only 26 from the Marysville branch.

    A listing of assayers in 1855 California from Bowers' A California Gold Rush History includes 14 different firms, ranging from the well-known (Kellogg & Humbert) to the virtually unheard-of (F. Schotte). Bowers also answers the question of why there were so many private assayers at a time when the San Francisco Mint was already refining gold and producing coinage. Bowers reproduces an 1866 study in the Mint Director's Annual Report by John Jay Knox, who had been sent to the San Francisco Mint:

    "My visit to California and the mining regions in the Sierra Nevadas has entirely changed my opinion relative to the propriety of erecting United States Assay Offices in the remote mining regions. In every mineral district producing [at least] $5 million there will be at least three private assay offices, owned by reliable men, the amount of whose business will depend upon the honesty and ability with which it is conducted. Almost every large quartz mill contains an assayer, and the stamp of these assayers is well known at the Mint, where their bars are subject at any time to delicate tests."

    "Private assayers will conduct their business much more economically than government officers, and the large quartz mills will in most cases do their own assaying, even if government offices are located in the same towns. ... "

    Clearly, given that Justh & Hunter bars recovered from the S.S. Central America numbered 86 ingots of varying sizes, their experience and integrity ranked them among the most trusted and well-run assay establishments of the momentous Gold Rush era. This is a substantial-sized ingot whose top side displays No. 9524 / the company imprint / 26.02 OZS. 884. The long bottom side displays the value: $475.48. The surfaces are bright gold, as expected, with the expected small assaying imperfections and a few shallow handling marks.

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2014
    23rd-27th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 19
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,438

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