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    Kellogg & Humbert Gold Ingot, 52.37 Ounces
    S.S. Central America

    Kellogg & Humbert Gold Ingot. 52.37 Ounces. The initial reason for the popularity of private assayers in Gold Rush California was due to the variability in the value of gold dust. Prices varied from $14 per ounce to as much as $20 per ounce. Sometimes gold dust was mixed with black dirt, making the value difficult to determine. Highly reputable assayers met this need for a known value for the enormous amounts of gold dust that was brought out of northern California. But it is curious that private assayers remained so popular with gold miners and banking houses, even three years after the establishment of the branch mint in San Francisco. The best clue we have why this is so, comes to us from an 1866 report by John Jay Knox:

    "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. Assayers of well established reputations will obtain from large mining corporation compensation for their services, in most cases, nearly or quite double the salaries paid by the United States, or they will earn much more in a private capacity than they will receive if in the employ of the government. The result will be, therefore, that the United States will obtain and retain only indifferent assayers and workmen, or those in its employ will endeavor to increase their pay illegitimately, thus subjecting the United States assay officers to the same charges of injustice and fraud with which private individuals are sometimes accused."

    The reputation of West Coast assayers were widely known to East Coast financial institutions, who relied on accurate assays, fineness, and value of the gold ingots that were shipped from west to east. The $2 million in high-grade gold ingots that were aboard the S.S. Central America when it was lost in a storm in September 1857 further weakened the country's economy and East Coast banking institutions, deepening the Panic that began two months previous to the loss of the ship.

    Such ingots as this one are tangible reminders of not only the California Gold Rush, but they also underscore the importance of gold bullion as currency backing in the mid-19th century. This medium-sized ingot is laid out in the usual fashion: No 949 / K&H hallmark / 52.37 Oz / 865 FINE / $936.43. The lower-center of the company hallmark is absent due to a depression on the top side. The upper-back side repeats the serial number, 949, but in a different font. The ingot measures 45 x 97 x 21 mm. All six sides are bright gold with no traces of the rust from the ship's hull that is often seen.

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

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2018
    22nd-27th Thursday-Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 23
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 3,514

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