Of all specialties in American numismatics, few have the diversity, historical importance, and fascination offered by the category generally described as private, pioneer and territorial gold. Each variety was produced under unusual circumstances. Thus, each has its own story to tell. In sharp contrast to contemporary federal coinage, the privately issued gold pieces of the last century are typically from crudely prepared dies, and were often struck under very trying circumstances. The result is coins that are very rustic, the numismatic equivalent of folk art.
The first private coinage on the American scene was produced from the gold panned in the hills of Georgia and was designed by Templeton Reid, a local jeweler. At the same time, once gold was discovered in North Carolina the Bechtler family produced coinage from gold dust and nuggets extensively. In 1848, when the Gold Rush of California occurred many private mints were established and we see quite a variety of the pieces minted there. The discovery of gold prompted other districts to strike coins. There are Oregon gold coins, pieces of the Mormons from Great Salt Lake, and the Rocky Mountain gold issues of Clark, Gruber & Co. All such examples are western numismatic Americana at its finest.