Tuesday, March 19, 2013

16. Mormon Gold Coins

Story behind the Mormon gold coins -
The gold coin Mormon were minted in the issues of 1849, 1850, and 1860. Gold Mormon coins are some of the most unusual and most collected non-US issued gold coins available to collectors today. Values for gold Mormon coins can be as little as a few thousand dollars to as much as mid-five figures.

The Gold Mormon Coin History according to http://goldmormoncoins.com/:
The story of Mormon gold begins in 1848, just like so many other American gold stories have begun. Mormon veterans of the Mexican War were part of the original discoverers of gold at Sutter’s Mill in California in 1848. However, these same men took the gold they could find in California and brought it to the Great Salt Lake Valley. This extra medium of exchange was welcomed and it was quickly decided that the gold dust should be converted into coins in order to not waste the dust lost in daily transactions.
The first gold Mormon coin entered circulation on December 12, 1848. Interestingly, these first coins actually sold at a 5% premium. Only 46 gold coins were minted in 1848 due to die breakages. It wasn’t until September 1849 that the gold coins were again issued. The first series of Mormon gold coins were pure gold and did not last very long in circulation. Later gold coins were alloyed with some silver in order to increase the durability of the coin.
There is no evidence that any Mormon gold coins were minted after June 19, 1851. This means that all the gold coins marked 1849 and even 1850, could have been minted at any time between late 1848 and mid-1851. All told, it is estimated that $70,000 worth of Mormon gold coins went into circulation. If you assume all denominations were printed in equal quantities, then about 7,500 Mormon gold coins were minted. Based on known survival percentages, it would appear that the two lower denominations were either minted in greater quantities, or they were just easier to save.
As stated above, gold Mormon coins were minted to help alleviate the lack of a reliable medium of exchange in an isolated part of the world. Mormon gold was shipped to places like New York and Baltimore on the east coast to secure goods needed back in the territory. It is easy to think that a trader in a major city could have put aside a strange coin from a faraway place as a keepsake from a profitable transaction. Surely some high grade Mormon gold coins were saved purely because of their curiosity factor.
Today it is thought that around 300 gold Mormon coins are held by collectors. New discoveries in the field of Mormon coinage are always happening and always exciting.

More Info About Gold Mormon Coins:
Today the LDS has all the original gold coin dies
Gold Mormon Coins were re-struck and today there are many more replicas than authentic coins When dealing with gold Mormon coins, 99% of the time you are going to see modern reproductions. It's sad but true.

Fake Mormon coins are being produced as you are reading this. These modern reproductions will not fool a seasoned collector or dealer. However, if you have never seen a genuine Mormon gold coin before, then you might have some trouble spotting a fake.

Generally speaking, fake gold Mormon coins won't have many details and they will be very shiny. The fake coins are made of a cheap alloy that really doesn't even look like gold.

These modern reproductions are worth a few bucks due to their curiosity factor. They are not collectible though.

According to this site http://goldmormoncoins.com/, The important People Involved In The Gold Coin Production Process were:
Willard Richards, Brigham Young, John Taylor, John Kay, Robert Campbell, Martin Peck, William Clayton, Thomas Bullock

Holiness to the Lord Coin

1849 Mormon Gold Coin

Book of Mormons Coins

PCGS graded MS61 Mormon gold coin. Hard to believe that this one coin has never been touched by human hands.

This NGC graded coin AU53 shown is for sale $49,500 from one collector. There is an 1860 NGC AU55 gold coin which is also listed for $49,500 for those of you who are comparing prices for your next purchase.

The 1849 $2.5 dollar gold coin is the smallest denomination coin minted for the six coin series. The 1849 two and a half dollar coin was the lowest denomination and it wouldn't have been especially painful for most people of the time to hold onto one as a keepsake. On one side of the 1849 coin you will find the phrase 'HOLINESS TO THE LORD' encircling the emblem of Priesthood--a three-point Phrygian crown (aka hat) over the all-seeing eye of Jehovah; on the reverse encircling clasped hands, the emblem of friendship, should occur the words "G. S. L. C. P. G." and the denomination of the coin. The abbreviation is short for Great Salt Lake City Pure Gold. It is currently thought that about 75 1849 two and a half dollar gold Mormon coins are held by collectors and dealers. The coin tends to come in very high grade and attractive grades.

The 1849 five dollar gold coin is one of the more common Mormon coins from the entire six coin series. On one side of the 1849 five dollar coin you will find the phrase 'HOLINESS TO THE LORD' encircling the emblem of Priesthood--a three-point Phrygian crown over the all-seeing eye of Jehovah. On the reverse of the coin encircling clasped hands (the emblem of friendship), should occur the words "G.S.L.C.P.G" and "Five Dollars". This states that the coin is made of five dollars worth of pure gold. It is currently thought that about 75 1849 five dollar gold Mormon coins are held by collectors and dealers. The coin tends to come in very high grade and attractive grades.

The 1849 ten dollar gold coin is very rare and valuable. Like all 1849 gold Mormon coins, the ten dollar denomination features an open eye and a hat like form on the obverse. (The hat is actually a crown). The central image is surrounded by "Holiness To The Lord." The reverse of the 1849 ten dollar gold Mormon coin shows two hands clasped. The date of 1849 is below the shaking hands image. "Pure Gold" and "Ten Dollars" is also written around the hands. This is the only 1849 coin that does not say "GSLCPG." It is currently thought that only about fifteen 1849 ten dollar Mormon coins are held by collectors and dealers. This limited supply means that these coins are valuable.

The 1849 twenty dollar gold coin is the highest denomination coin minted for the entire Mormon gold issue. The twenty dollar gold Mormon coin is not only an important denomination to the Mormon series, but this coin is in fact the first twenty dollar gold piece minted for circulation use in the entire United States. The Mormon twenty was issued three months before the federal 1849 $20, and a full year before the 1850 double eagle. It is thought that around one thousand 1849 twenty dollar gold Mormon coins entered circulation. The gold used for the issue was low quality and the twenty dollar gold coin had almost three dollars less gold in it than it should. This fact meant that the coin was a bit of a hot-potato to a very precious metal aware society. Today there are somewhere around fifteen 1849 $20 gold Mormon coins known to exist. Most of the survivors are well used and not exactly show pieces compared to the two lowest denomination coins which were much easier to save. The 1849 twenty dollar Mormon coin has a similar design to other 1849 Mormon coins. There are two clasped hands, an all seeing eye, and a three pointed hat. "To The Lord Holiness", "GSLCPG", and "Twenty Dollars" are all written out on the coin.

The 1850 five dollar gold coin is very similar but also very different from the 1849 coin. The reverse of the 1850 $5 gold coin features two hands clasped and supposedly shaking. Underneath the hands is the year 1850 and Five Dollars. Above the hands is the abbreviation "G. S. L. C. P. G." This stands for Great Salt Lake City, Pure Gold. All of this is exactly the same as the 1849 five dollar coin. The obverse of the 1850 five dollar gold mormon coin is different from the same 1849 reverse. The 1850 reverse has nine stars. The hat/crown above the eye is also different; the 1850 crown has three points. There is also a halo or circle between the eye and crown, which is not found on the 1849 coins. Lots of 1850 five dollar Mormon gold coins were minted. However, due to impurities, they didn't stay in circulation very long. Today there are less than 100 known to exist with collectors.

The 1860 five dollar gold coin has the most unique design of all Mormon coins. The obverse of the 1860 $5 gold coin features a crouching lion in front of a small pool of water. The lion is surrounded by the phrase "Holiness to the Lord" written in the deseret alphabet. The alphabet really just looks like strange characters to the observer today. The reverse shows an eagle behind a beehive. The eagle is clutching arrows in its talons. Deseret Assay Office Pure Gold 5 D is written around the eagle. Gold was discovered in Colorado in 1858, this led to an increased amount of gold coming into Utah around the same time period. This new supply meant that new coins could be minted. Coins struck between 1859 and 1861 are all of the five dollar denomination and all the coins say 1860. It is thought that less than one thousand 1860 five dollar gold Mormon coins were minted. Today less than 100 are known to exist.

According to historian J. Cecil Alter, Brigham Young, while sojourning in Winter Quarters that first winter, remembered how the boys in the valley were wearing out their pockets reaching for money they did not have and brought with him on his return in September 1848 about $84 in small change. But in a burgeoning population, that was chicken feed and disappeared in the crowd as if it had never been.

An effort was made in December 1848 to circulate paper money, using handwritten scrip signed by Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball with Thomas Bullock, clerk, as a counter-signee. The scrip was issued in $1 and $5 denominations backed by gold dust, which was prevalent in the valley, but awkward and inexact in common use. (A pinch of dust varied from thumb to thumb.) After several other attempts, including the re-issue of Kirtland Safety Society anti-Banking notes from the church's failed venture in organizing an Ohio bank, Brigham gave up on paper currency. What was needed was coin.

The first solid money showed up in Great Salt Lake Valley in December 1847 after Young had left for Winter Quarters to prepare the rest of the Saints for the journey to Utah the following spring. Captain James Brown had ridden into the valley from San Francisco, his saddlebags heavy with Spanish doubloons--back pay owed the Pueblo Detachment of the Mormon Battalion.

The precise sum is a matter of debate, church records have it ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. But whatever the amount, the doubloons, probably coins of 8-escudo denomination ($20 U.S. value), had been paid by the U.S. Army paymaster to Brown, who held powers of attorney from the Pueblo veterans. Depending on the sum involved, Brown would have had from 250 to 500 of the Spanish coins in his pouches.

These gold escudos (worth today on the numismatic market about $500 in good condition) were readily accepted by Americans. With approval of the Mormon High Council in Brigham's absence, Brown spent $2,000 to buy Fort Buenaventura from Miles Goodyear; the balance is said to have gone to Battalion members. Still, the reluctance of travelers to accept Mormon scrip or Kirtland Bank notes as legitimate money continued to be a problem.

As J. Cecil Alter explained it, "To those who knew the sound of his voice, Brigham Young's signature made the new money legal tender by common consent." But with transients, who from 1849 became an important segment of the population--at least in summer--it was a different matter entirely. They were moving onward and would carry the money into a land that knew not Joseph Smith's successor, consequently immigrants not only paid out good money for what they bought, but demanded money they could use in California and Oregon in exchange for wagons, livestock, groceries, clothing, tools and implements they sold in the valley. And, Alter pointed out, that not only threatened depletion of the meager supply of U.S. money but of the gold dust deposits held in security as backing for the paper money issued.

It was imperative that a coin be struck that in itself was intrinsically worth the amount claimed on its face, which would be acceptable and usable by Mormon residents, Mormons abroad and by non-Mormons in Great Salt Lake City and elsewhere. With the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill early in 1848, gold dust was finding its way into the Mormon economy in increasing amounts. There are numerous cases of Mormons paying their church tithing in gold dust (at $15 an ounce). This "church treasure," as Alter describes it, was to be melted and rolled into strips from which coins could be stamped.

The extent to which Mormon authorities had concerned themselves with the situation is evident in a letter from Brigham Young to Thomas (Peg-Leg) Smith, who ran a trading post in the Bear River Valley. "[I] understand that you have a desire to dispose of your establishment, cattle, stock, &c. now in the Bear River Valley," Young wrote, "I send herewith Mr. Lewis Robison, a friend of mine, who is fully authorized to treat with and make suitable arrangements for pay, transfer of property, &c. Whatever arrangements he may make in regard to the pay, you may consider me responsible for the amount.

The coined money, I have now not on hand, but we are preparing to put the gold dust into coin without an alloy, which if you are disposed to take, you can have--but if you choose the American-coined money we can probably get it by the time you want it. If not, it will probably save me some little trouble." All that remained in the planning process was for Young to order the design of such coins and create the dies to stamp them with.

Part of that task took place November 25, 1848, when Brigham Young, with John Taylor and John M. Kay, sketched out the coin designs and decided upon inscriptions for them. Alfred B. Lambson forged the dies, the punches, tools and collars; Robert L. Campbell engraved the first stamps for the coins; a drop hammer was forged by Martin H. Peck, John Kay engraved the dies and minted the coins. William Clayton and Thomas Bullock acted as accountant and weigher, respectively.

Originally, the plan was to mint $2 1/2, $5, $10 and $20 gold pieces, and while this ultimately was done, the $10 coin was the first struck; with twenty-five minted the first day. The first design called for an obverse with the motto Holiness to the Lord and an emblem of the priesthood--a three-pointed Phrygian crown over an All-Seeing Eye of Jehovah. On the reverse, the $2 1/2, $5 and $20 coins were inscribed G.S.L.C. P.G. (Great Salt Lake City Pure Gold) over two clasped hands symbolizing friendship, then the value and the year date.

The $10 coin bore the words Pure Gold on its reverse, rather than the initialed phrase. This was altered in later coins so the obverse inscription would read Deseret Assay Office, Pure Gold and, at the base, 5 D. On the reverse side was a crouched lion, surrounded by Holiness to the Lord written in Deseret Alphabet characters, then the year 1860. The coins were .899 fine, with a bit of native silver, but no other alloy, for strength. Most of the coins bore the date 1849, but a great many were issued in 1850 and later.

With hard cash a reality, Daniel H. Wells and Thomas Bullock spent September 10, 1849, destroying the Mormon paper currency. "They tore up and burned between $3,000 and $4,000," according to church records. When the coins were first circulated in St. Louis by Salt Lake merchants who used them to pay for merchandise, the $20 were accepted at $18 because of the touch of silver alloy. In the valley, however, the coins went for face value.

But over the long account, the Mormon minters had the last laugh, because the numismatic value of these golden treasures are worth many fold what the Saints asked for them. (A $20 1849 Mormon gold piece, for example, is valued at between $25,000 and $50,000, according to Alvin Rust's Mormon and Utah Coin and Currency.)

The day of the Mormon coiners came to an effective close when the new San Francisco Mint went into operation in 1854, producing U.S. gold and silver hard money by the bagsful daily. The last Mormon gold was minted in 1860.

One writer wrote: Mormon Gold Coins were minted in 1849, 1850 and 1860. The Twenty Dollar Mormon Gold Coin was the first $20 piece to be minted in the United States, though many of the other dollar denominations had been minted for some time. Soon afterwards the other Assay Companies across the country followed suite, also striking their $20 piece. Private Gold, or gold coins minted outside of the U.S. owned mints were important to the early gold rush prospectors/traders/and general public. There wasn't enough federal currency circulating, and in the western territories and states specifically, money became so scarce of a commodity that the gold and silver they mined was converted to coinage for that very reason.

Generally speaking the gold was marked by the assayer such as early jeweler and gunsmith, Templeton Reid in Georgia, near the 1830's. Thou Reid was a good measure of weight, his assay were not so "pure". His mint was attacked in the newspapers and soon public confidence was low. His mint went out of business by the end of the year. With a mintage of a mere 1,600 coins, even though the purity of his coins was poor - those owning the coins today are not (poor). He struck a $2.50, $5.00 and $10 dollar coin. Most or at least many of those coins now are worth 6 figures.

The Bechtlers were a skilled group of German metallurgist's. A father and son team, they operated their mint in Rutherford, North Carolina, and were the first to produce a gold dollar in the United States, producing the first in 1831. The U.S. mints followed suite nearly 18 years later in 1849.

Moffat & Co. (1849) was probably one of the most successful in California - as the successors of their company eventually formed the United States mint of San Francisco (1852). I am thinking they may have been "forced" out, if you know what I mean. The old merger of sorts.

These assayers were set up wherever prospectors were mining, which consisted of most of the western frontier and territories. And, not only did they strike coins, but also bars, ingots, and even fractional currency were struck. Bearing weight and purity, they became currency even if they were not struck with a face amount.

Some of the more distinct patterns and shapes, my favorites, of early gold coins came from the Mormon Mint (Deseret Mint), the Oregon Exchange Company, J.S. Ormsby in Sacramento, the Pacific Company in San Francisco, and Pikes Peak Gold in Colorado. Like all coin collectors, I am fascinated with the Carson City mint, and the stories that the Reno, Sparks, and Carson City areas hold with early settlers, prospectors, and pioneer stories.

As with all my research, it is ongoing and always under construction. So whatever you may be reading, there's a good chance it will change by the time you read it a second time. As I learn more about the Mormon teaching, I will post it and revise what I have written. I encourage questions, comments or corrections from any readers.