California Gold Ingots

California Gold Ingots

The State Assay Office at San Francisco was opened on May 18th, 1850 by Frederick Kohler. Six ingots have been recorded as being produced from San Francisco but only 4 have been seen in the last 60 or more years. The other two examples are presumed to no longer exist. Each ingot has the Sate Assay Office stamp, the year of manufacture for which all are 1850, the fineness of the gold in carats, weight in pennyweights, and the value. Don Kagin and David McCarthy note that the $50 example would be the earliest known $50 piece before Humbert’s slug was produced in 1851.


Courtesy of PCGS


The State of California sometime later, opened a second Sate Assay Office in Sacramento California. From this mint only one known ingot was issued according to Kagin’s new book America’s Golden Age: Private & Pioneer Gold Coins of the United States 1786-1862. This example would be the 1850 $36.55 FD Kohler Ingot, which now sits in the Smithsonian in Washington DC.  There was a second example discovered by John J. Ford sometime in the mid-20th century but it was unverifiable and due to the controversy of numismatist John J. Ford along with no direct evidence to tie it directly to the Assay Office, it is considered a fantasy piece from the ford collection.


California Gold ingots including FD Kohler’s bars

No Date $9.43 Moffat Ingot (Believed to be circa 1849)

No Date $14.25 Moffat Ingot (Believed to be circa 1849)

No Date $16 Moffat Ingot (Believed to be circa 1849)

1850 $18.00 Meyers & Co. Ingot

No Date $20 Jas. King of William Ingot

No Date $20 Diana Gambling House Ingot

1850 $36.55 FD Kohler Ingot

1850 $37.71 FD Kohler Ingot

1850 $40.07 FD Kohler Ingot

1850 $45.34 FD Kohler Ingot

1850 $47.71 FD Kohler Ingot

1850 $50.00 FD Kohler Ingot

No Date $416.72 Justh & Hunter Ingot 5.24 oz

1850 $54.09 FD Kohler Ingot


Courtesy of The National Museum of American History


Courtesy of The National Museum of American History

From the Estate of Josiah K. Lilly


 First US Assay Office in San Francisco

Only known image of the old San Francisco Assay Office as an illustrated letter sheet used by Humbert in his correspondence to the Treasury and Mint Director. (Possibly not the same building as where the ingots were produced)


Meyers & Co Gold bar

Courtesy of Kagin's


Meyers & Company


  Meyers & Company - Unraveling the Mystery

Just like the enigmatic Pacific Company pieces, the origins of the Meyers & Company ingot have long perplexed modern numismatists. In 2007, researcher Michael Hodder tantalizingly suggested a connection to William Meyer & Company, a San Francisco-based importer dating back to at least 1850. Yet, another school of thought points to Frederick Meyer & Company, an original Philadelphia manufacturer of scales and weights. The third theory proposes a link to John J. Ford and Paul Gerow Franklin, or perhaps the creators of the 1950s-1980s forgeries that they handled.

Today, there's a growing consensus that this ingot is somehow linked to a pair of intriguing patterns for coins or scale weights attributed to F. Meyers & Company. The first specimen surfaced in W. Elliot Woodward's 67th sale of the J.N.T. Levick Collection in 1884, listed as "Patterns For Gold Coins - California And Pikes Peak." This uniface piece, struck over a Large Cent, proudly displays "*½-OZ TROY/F MEYERS & CO/U.S. STANDARD WARRANTED." A similar 1-oz example emerged in Europe in the 1980s, crafted in brass and bearing striking inscriptions, including "UNITED STATES" (unabbreviated) and "PHILA" for the location.

With this evidence in hand, it's reasonable to conclude that these enigmatic patterns were the handiwork of Frederick Meyer & Company, a scale and weight manufacturer founded in the 1830s by the enterprising Frederick Ferdinand Meyer.

Meyer, or Meyers, as he often listed himself, hailed from Germany and made his way to the United States in 1832. By 1838, he had already set up shop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, crafting scales and weights. In the 1840s, he joined forces with brothers John and Henry Troemner, who would later produce the balances and weights for the United States Mint.

Operating under names like Meyer & Company and Meyers & Company, this trio manufactured scales for pharmacies, jewelers, and grocers. However, by 1849, something peculiar happened. Meyer's listing disappeared from McElroy's Directory, and he didn't appear in the 1850 census. Nevertheless, the 1850 McElroy's Directory still listed Frederick Meyer & Company Scale Manufacturers at 196 High Street. Curiously, the directory also noted Henry Troemner at the same address. Meyer's personal listing didn't resurface until 1852, this time at a different location, while his former partners, Troemner & Company, had taken over the 196 High Street spot. In a few years, Meyer had relocated to New Jersey.

So, what do we make of Meyer's disappearance in 1849 and 1850? It remains an intriguing puzzle.

Further research by Fred Holabird revealed an interesting tidbit in the first edition of Campbell & Hoog's San Francisco Directory from February 1850. Albrecht Kuner, a former employee of Moffat & Company and a future partner in Shultz & Company, was listed as Kuner, Meyer & Michaels. In 1904, Kuner recalled their business in a quaint Clay Street house, but its existence was short-lived due to the devastating fire of 1850.

The story of Meyers & Company is a fascinating enigma, filled with twists and turns, leaving us with more questions than answers.


Moffat & Co

John Little Moffat was an experienced assayer based out of New York who had worked in the gold fields of the Southern Appalachian Gold Rush, America’s first gold rush.

In the summer of 1849, enter John Little Moffat, a seasoned assayer hailing from the vibrant streets of New York. His journey? To conquer the golden treasures of the Southern Appalachian Gold Rush, which unfolded in North Carolina and northern Georgia. But wait, the call of the Wild West, the Californian Gold Rush, beckoned! So, at the sprightly age of 61, Moffat teamed up with the likes of Joseph R. Curtis, Philo H. Perry, and Samuel H. Ward.

Picture this: On a chilly February 15th in 1849, they set sail from the Big Apple on the good ship Guilford. Their mission? To bring smelting and assaying equipment to the eager folks of California, offering them a reliable currency in the form of gold dust.

Fast forward to July 21st, the Weekly Alta California declared to the world:

"MOFFAT & CO. HAVE erected suitable furnaces, and are provided with all the necessary apparatus and the most ample facilities for SMELTING and ASSAYING Gold Dust. The highest market price paid for GOLD DUST."

Imagine their brokerage and assay office – the first of its kind in the Golden State – buzzing with activity. They began crafting assay ingots of various sizes, including a tiny nugget weighing less than half an ounce, worth a modest $9.43. This little marvel, rescued from a bullion deposit at the Philadelphia Mint, now rests in the hallowed halls of the Smithsonian Institution.

But here's the kicker: the firm soon realized that crafting standardized monetary ingots was more convenient. Behold the birth of the $16 ingot, lovingly referred to as "California Doubloons" in the newspapers. Why? Well, they mirrored the weight and fineness of the Mexican 8-escudo coins. These ingots bore the mark "20% Carat" and weighed roughly 9 ounces troy. That's pretty close to your classic doubloon specs!

In early 1850, Philadelphia Mint assayers Eckfeldt and Dubois had their say on these bars:

"But the sixteen-dollar ingots are of very inconsistent weight; as, for instance, from 18 dwts. to 19 dwts. 4 grs. Next to fineness: without any gross deviation, (except in a casual instance,) there is a decided want of accuracy, as well as a want of uniformity in error. The first importation of these bars, in August last, gave a higher fineness than the stamp. But in more recent deposits, the error lies the other way... Of the sixteen-dollar ingots, all stamped 20%, two have been assayed, and result 850 and 848. Both were alloyed with copper; the former 1% per cent., the latter about 4 percent,; being the only cases in which we have noticed any other than the natural silver alloy. Those two ingots were worth respectively, $15.81, and $15.73."


moffat & co gold ingot

Courtesy of PCGS


Most other examples of California Ingots were reintroduced into the market due a famous shipwreck discovery called “The Ship of Gold” SS Central America and the SS Republic shipwreck.


Sources used in compiling this article:

Newman Numismatic Portal

The Book: America’s Golden Age:

Private & Pioneer Gold Coins of the United States 1786-1862 by Donald H. Kagin, Ph.D. and David J. McCarthy

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