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  • Writer's pictureDrew Bassler

We Found Gold! California Fractional Gold Discovery

We struck gold! On one of our first filmed hunts, we struck literal gold in finding two California Fractional Gold coins in an old glass jar. The property was situated on a bluff overlooking LA’s La Brea Avenue, in which some mudslides occurred last year during the heavy rains. 


Lenny’s Minelab 800 pinged the spot but we were confused when we found glass bottles vs any metal. Upon washing the jars out we found the two fractional coins, dated 1852 & 1860. Had the coins not been in the glass jar it could have made it impossible to find them. 


California Fractional Gold Currency refers to a series of small-denomination gold coins that were minted and circulated in California during the mid-19th century. This unique form of currency emerged during the California Gold Rush, when gold was discovered in the state in 1848.


During this time, the rapid influx of gold miners and settlers led to a shortage of small-denomination coins needed for everyday transactions. To address this issue, private companies and individuals in California began minting fractional gold coins as a convenient and trusted form of currency.


The first known California Fractional Gold Currency coins were produced in 1852 by private goldsmiths. These coins typically featured a denomination, such as a quarter dollar or half dollar, and a design on the obverse side, often depicting various motifs including Minerva, Liberty, or Native American figures.


The California state government soon recognized the need for a regulated fractional gold currency and authorized the private mints to continue their production. From 1852 to 1882, several private minters, including the firms of Moffat & Co., Kellogg & Humbert, and Wass, Molitor & Co., issued a wide range of California Fractional Gold coins.


These coins varied in size, weight, and design, and they were widely accepted and used in everyday commerce throughout California. However, due to their small size and scarcity, California Fractional Gold coins were mainly used for small transactions or as souvenirs rather than for larger purchases.


By the early 1880s, the production of California Fractional Gold Currency coins declined as the United States Mint began minting more small-denomination coins that were readily available. As a result, the use of California Fractional Gold coins as a medium of exchange gradually diminished.


Today, California Fractional Gold Currency coins hold historical significance and are highly valued by collectors and enthusiasts of numismatics. They serve as a unique reminder of California's vibrant Gold Rush era and the innovative solutions created to address the shortage of small-denomination coins during that time.


The coins were found in a vintage inkwell jar with the stopper intact, although there was some damage to the top. We couldn’t find much about the A Colburn Co., the name inscribed on the bottle that was found alongside the inkwell jar, although we see some articles online pointing to it being an old spice company from Philadelphia, PA. 


In terms of the value of these coins, the 1852 coin is going for $175 and the 1860 coin is going on ebay for around $250, bringing the total estimate for this hunt to $425. The property owner was happy to surrender the items and we paid them ⅔ of the value of $316.


We’ve got a long way to reach $1,000,000,000 in lost treasures, but this find definitely adds to the Backyard Billions cache. Onto the next! 




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1 Comment


nicolembassler
Feb 03

What an interesting find! And the history behind it. Thanks for sharing!

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