Nearly two decades before gold was discovered in the northwest corner of Georgia, Templeton Reid had already established a business as a watchmaker and jeweler in Milledgeville County, an area soon to become the center of the United States’ first gold rush. During the years of 1828 to 1829, prospectors learning of the ore discoveries flooded into the lands occupied by Cherokee Indians, just west of the Chestatee River where the richest deposits were found.
Prospectors and miners soon had to find ways to redeem the gold in whatever form they found it. At first, they were obliged to sell their gold in its crude form at a loss of between five and fifteen per cent since there were no assaying facilities. Recognizing the problem, Templeton Reid utilized his metallurgical knowledge and study of coin-making methods by coining $2 ½, $5 and $10 denominations. It was announced to the community in the Southern Recorder on July 24, 1830 that he had already manufactured nearly $1,500 worth of gold in these denominations.
Reid continued to mint gold in Georgia for three-month period, during part of July, all of August and September, and part of October in 1830. An article appearing in the Georgia Courier on August 16, 1830 brought about his short tenure. Apparently a disgruntled citizen, who styled himself anonymously as “No Assayer,” claimed he had sent a Reid $10 piece to the Mint in Philadelphia only to learn that the actual value was only $9.38. In an era in which the public was very concerned with intrinsic value, this represented an unconscionably high profit for the minter. This news grew proportionately as the Georgia Courier, in a September 6th editorial, observed that Reid “is making about $15,000 per annum, adding that his was a “…better business than gold digging.” Reid, it seems, did not intentionally produce underweight coins. Apparently he thought the gold dust did not need any chemical refinement and since he was unfamiliar with the true metallic content of the pieces he considered the gold to be nearly pure. This was not the case as the gold dust he used contained silver, tin, and other metals as impurities. The public attacks swelled despite his efforts to repudiate the claims and eventually put an effective end to the short-lived Templeton Reid Georgia coinage.
Ironically, mint records indicate the value of Reid’s coins were worth more than those levels reported by “No Assayer” during the summer of 1830, when gold was quoted at 96.67c per dwt. Furthermore, if the gold content were to be calculated in 1834, when the government reduced the metal content requirements effectively raising the price of gold to 103.4c per dwt, then Reid’s coinage would be worth more than the coin’s face value. It is, therefore, not surprising that most Georgia gold was melted shortly after having been minted and is classified as the rarest gold issues available struck in this country.
Reid, who died in 1851, would have been remembered by numismatists only for his 1830 production, were it not for several curious coins bearing his name, the date 1849, and the location of California. That at least some of these were produced during the time indicated is borne out by the fact that in 1849 tow of Templeton Reid’s gold coins, each with the imprint of California and of the denominations of $10 and $25 came to the United States Mint at Philadelphia. The $25 struck in gold is presently unaccounted for, as it was never recovered following its theft from the Mint Cabinet on August 16, 1858.