Justh & Hunter 50.50 Ounce Gold Ingot
Justh & Hunter MS Gold Ingot. 50.50 Ounces. The
California Gold Rush attracted individuals of many motivations and
nationalities. A number of the Europeans who came to California at
that time were refugees or exiles; in 1848, the same year gold was
discovered in California, a series of revolts and revolutions
struck European nations, with France, the German and Italian states
(which had not yet unified), and parts of the Austrian Empire (most
notably Hungary) affected. The case of the Hungarians is
particularly relevant to the study of Territorial gold and
assayers' ingots; without the turmoil and exile encountered by
various Hungarian revolutionaries, there would be no Wass, no
Molitor, no Justh (of Justh and Hunter).
Ex: S.S. Central America
Of course, numerous Americans also traveled to California. According to documents reprinted in California Coiners and Assayers by Dan Owens, Solomon Hillen Hunter traveled from Baltimore, Maryland to California in 1855, making the Atlantic leg of the trip on a ship named the S.S. George Law; in a touch of grotesque irony, that ship, renamed the S.S. Central America, sank in October 1857 with a number of assayers' ingots on board, including this one.
Like many assay offices' pairings, the firm Justh & Hunter made for a bit of an odd couple; Justh had been in California five years and had just left the employ of the U.S. Mint in San Francisco, while Hunter was fresh off the boat. Yet their partnership lasted a little more than three years, including the fateful year of 1857, when a shipwreck inadvertently preserved their legacy for future generations.
The firm of Justh & Hunter was little known before the salvage of the S.S. Central America. That changed radically once this fabulous treasure was brought to the surface. There were 86 ingots salvaged from this assayer. This is a medium-sized ingot, even though 50.5 ounces is still quite hefty. Justh ingots range from a low of 5.24 ounces to a whopping 866.19 ounces. This rectangular piece is imprinted on the top side: NO. 4335 / JUSTH & HUNTER / 50.50 OZS. / 883 FINE. / $921.78. The sides show no imprinting, and the back has the batch number 35 at the top left. Two assay chips are out of opposite corners, as usually seen. The surfaces are orange-gold and show the normal depressions and gas bubbles inherent in the casting process. The ingot measures 43 x 74 x 24 mm.
Ex: Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 9/2011), lot 4572, where it sold for $166,750.
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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