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Newletter Archive > May 2013 - Wass and Molitor $50 Slugs and Bloody Springs

May 2013 - Wass and Molitor $50 Slugs and Bloody Springs

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Wass and Molitor $50 Slugs

Wass and Molitor were Hungarian freedom fighters and immigrants who opened an assay office in San Francisco in 1851. They studied at the School of Mines in Germany and were experienced miners when they arrived in California in 1850 and 1851. They made and stamped gold ingots and established a reputation for honest, fast, and reliable service. They paid depositors in forty-eight hours, six days faster than the US Assay.

Since the US Assay Office was only producing fifty dollar slugs, Wass and Molitor made five and ten-dollar gold coins. The coins were of a weight and fineness equal to the federal standard. When the San Francisco assay office and later the Mint began making their own coinage, Wass and Molitor left their assay business.

However, during the California Gold Rush the US Mint was woefully unprepared for the incredible amounts of placer gold being recovered in California. Although the Mint would eventually manage to catch up, many gold coins produced from 1849-1855 and placed into circulation were minted by private companies in California. That's when Wass and Molitor resumed their work.

The Wass and Molitor fifty dollar coin is unusual in that it is the only round fifty dollar California gold piece. The US Assay slugs were octagons. The daily need for coinage was supplied by two private firms, Kellogg & Co., and Wass and Molitor. Wass, Molitor & Co fifty dollar gold pieces are usually heavily dented, nicked and have scratched surfaces and rims. Often the fields are retooled or polished to remove these distracting marks. In any condition, all Wass, Molitor & Co., gold is considered rare and command some of the highest prices on the rare coin market.

$60,000 in Gold Coins

Privately minted gold pieces are still occasionally found at Bloody Springs in the arid highlands of northeastern California along the "California Trail" in Lassen County. In the early days of the Gold Rush this area was continually seeing battles between the white men who came in search of fortune and the Indians, who were fighting to protect their homes.

The California Trail traveled south into Sacramento Valley through Pit River. It was here that there were particularly nasty battles and many massacres between the two groups. This is how it got the name, Bloody Springs. One massacre at Bloody Springs involved a small wagon train of prospectors and miners who had indeed struck it rich in the goldfields. They carried over $60,000 in privately minted $20 gold coins and $50 slugs.

They were violently attacked and nearly the entire group was killed. The lone survivor made it to Fort Cook to tell his story. He told of how the wagonload of $60,000 in gold coins were tossed one by one across the Pit River Gorge in a contest to see who could throw them the furthest. The Indians played the game until every coin had been thrown.

If this treasure tale is true, and the fact that coins, are still occasionally found here gives some credit to the story, there's a good chance many of those gold coins still rest along the sides of the gorge, in the waters below, and buried beneath earth and new growth on the opposite side of the gorge (providing any of them made it that far).

Coins recovered from this site could be nearly priceless, commanding top dollar at rare coin auctions. Their relative rarity and probable brilliant uncirculated or "mint" condition would ensure the finder a big payday.

Happy Hunting!

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