Today, the California Fractional Gold Coin remembers the first deposit at the US Mint of California gold 168 years ago.
From the Banker’s Magazine of April 1876:
“The first discovery of California gold was, according to the Report of the Mining Commissioner for 1866, made by James W. Marshall at Coloma, Cal., on the 19th of January, 1848.
“The first deposit of gold from California at the Mint, consisted of 1804.59 ounces, Troy, 894 fine, and was made by David Carter, December 8, 1848.”
The Alta California newspaper of March 1849 provided details of that first deposit of gold along with advice to the miners for the selling price:
Alta California. San Francisco, Thursday, March 22, 1849.
All doubts as to the value and purity of California Gold Dust are finally dissipated by the following letter of the Director of the U. S. Mint at Philadelphia.
Those who have attempted to depreciate its value, for the purpose of speculating therein, by circulating rumors of its want of purity, are now exposed.
We trust that those who have labored hard to procure the precious metal during the past year, will not sell their earnings at a less rate than sixteen dollars the ounce in coin.
It is fully worth that, and will yield to the purchaser a large profit, as the following figures will show:
Value of 1 oz. California Gold at the Mint $18.05 1-2
Cost at San Francisco per oz. $16.00
Freight 2 percent .32
Insurance 2 percent .32
Transportation across isthmus 1 percent .16
Other charges, 3-4 percent .12
Total cost, 16.92
Profit nearly 7 per cent. $1.13 1-2
It is believed that gold dust may be sent and returns come to hand in three months.
If this be true, it would give at the end of the year a profit of 28 percent upon any given investment.
But, placing it in its worst light, say that returns can only be realized once in four months, and we then have a product of 21 per cent profit.
In view of these facts, and we are of opinion that all variations in our statement will be in favor of the buyer, we should strenuously urge upon the community the propriety of not selling gold dust at less than sixteen dollars in coin per ounce.
The statement of the Director which we subjoin will bear us out in the assertion:
Mint of the United States.
Philadelphia, Dec. 11, 1848.
Sir: On the 8th instant, we received, as I have already had the honor to inform you, the first deposit of gold from California.
It was deposited by Mr. David Carter, who brought it from San Francisco by the isthmus route.
It weighed 1,804.59 ounces troy; of which 1,423.80 was from the lower surface mines, and 380.79 from those at Feather river.
On the 9th instant another deposit was sent by the Secretary of War, which weighs 228 ounces.
The gold was of two sorts in external character, though apparently not different as to quality.
The first, from the “dry diggings,” was in grains, which averaged from one to two pennyweights; the other variety, from the swamps or margins of the streams, being in small flat spangles, of which, on an average, it would take six or seven to weigh one grain.
Of those, by far the larger part of the deposits was composed.
The gold was melted in six parcels, and the loss by melting, due to the earthy and oxidable matter which disappears in this operation, averaged about 2 1-2 percent of the original weight.
The loss thus reported is moderate, and shows that the gold had been carefully washed.
Assays of the melted gold were made with great care, and the results showed a variation in fineness from 892 to 897 thousandths, the average of the whole being 894.
This is slightly below the standard fineness, which is 900.
The average value per ounce of the bullion, before melting, is $18.05; that of the same in bars, after melting, is $18.50.
The whole value of the gold in the two deposits was $36,432, besides a few ounces reserved in the native state for the Secretary of War, at his request.
Very respectfully, your faithful servant,
R. M. Patterson, Director.
Hon. Robert J. Walker, Sec. of the Treasury.
The California Fractional Gold Coin shows with an image of El Dorado gold miners, circa 1849.