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    Kellogg & Humbert Gold Ingot
    31.62 Ounces, An Impressive Small-Size Ingot
    S.S. Central America

    Kellogg & Humbert Gold Ingot. 31.62 Ounces. The California constitution, adopted in November 1849, prohibited the creation or issuance of paper money, instead favoring the circulation and use of "hard money," namely gold and silver. That seemed a reasonable measure, considering the abundance of gold being unearthed in the West at that time and the economic uncertainties caused by spurious banknotes and phantom banks in the East.

    There was one major problem: A shortage of assayers to convert gold dust into refined bars and coins of recognized weight and fineness. In his monumental work, A California Gold Rush History, Dave Bowers cites R.B. Mason, governor of the California territory, who in 1848 wrote:

    "If the California grain gold, now in such abundant quantities in the country, can be wrought into convenient shapes, so as to answer as a substitute for gold and silver coin, I will order it to be received at the Custom House in payment of duties, at its intrinsic value."

    Assayers like Norris, Gregg, & Norris began setting up in California as early as May 1849. Additional companies would establish themselves over the course of the year. But by 1850 there was still no United States Assay Office or San Francisco branch mint to produce bars with government-guaranteed weight and fineness that would be acceptable as payment at the Custom House. The absence of such a facility failed to solve the shortage of federal coinage in California and prevented Californians from selling their gold for fair East Coast market prices.

    Much of that changed when Moffat & Co., the most reputable Western assayer at the time, was awarded the commission to affix the United States stamp upon its gold bars and coins in September 1850. New York watchmaker August Humbert was appointed U.S. assayer and arrived in San Francisco in late January 1851. Humbert is best-known for his large fifty dollar octagonal slugs produced in 1851 and 1852. They did much to relieve the shortage of official coinage for custom duties, and also served to drive out lesser-quality private issues. However, the situation was only permanently resolved after the opening of the San Francisco Mint in 1854.

    In 1855, Augustus Humbert teamed up with former Moffat Cashier and Assayer John Grover Kellogg, who had formed his own firm in the months between the closure of the U.S. Assay Office and the opening of the San Francisco Mint. The firm of Kellogg and Humbert operated until 1860, dissolving upon the latter's retirement. During their time together, these two men were regarded among the best assayers of the period. It is little wonder their ingots were found in such vast quantities aboard the wreck of the S.S. Central America. A total of 343 gold bars were recovered, ranging in size from 5.8 ounces to a 933.94 ounces. This significant offering falls within the small-sized category (10.01 to 15.00 ounces). The top side is neatly laid out: No 921 / 31.62 Oz / 907 FINE / $592.85. The lot number 921 is repeated at the top of the back side. The long, right side shows the imprint of Kellogg & Humbert. Casting irregularities are seen along the long, left side and there are tiny remnants of rust from the iron hull of the ship, but this is mostly limited to the back side. The ingot measures: 41 mm x 52 mm x 23 mm. As one would expect from 907 fine gold, the surfaces are bright yellow-gold. An impressive small-size ingot.
    From The Jenkins Family Collection.

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

    View all of [The Jenkins Family Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2018
    3rd-8th Wednesday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 15
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,674

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