The Coinage of Templeton Reid, Georgia gold, 1830
Nearly two decades before gold was discovered, Templeton Reid had already established a solid business as a watchmaker and jeweler in a northwest corner of Georgia called Milledgeville County, an area soon to become the center of the United States’ first gold rush. As news of ore discoveries began circulating from 1828 to 1829, prospectors flooded into the area that also happened to be occupied by Cherokee Indians, just west of the Chestatee River where the richest deposits were found. Although it is not specifically stated in our history books, these discoveries could very well have prompted the relocation of the Cherokee nation and the subsequent “Trail of Tears.”
The need to redeem dust and nuggets into a negotiable form soon prompted Templeton Reid to diversify into coin manufacturing by minting $2.50, $5 and $10 gold denominations. The Southern Recorder announced to their readership he had already manufactured nearly $1,500 worth of gold in these denominations on July 24, 1830. Reid continued to mint his gold coins from July to October, when a negative article appeared in the Georgia Courier alleging wrongdoing. The newspaper quoted a disgruntled citizen, known anonymously as “No Assayer,” as having 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 negative news grew proportionately as the Georgia Courier later speculated that Reid “is making about $15,000 per annum, adding that his was a “…better business than gold digging.”
We know now Templeton Reid did not intentionally produce underweight coins. The actual 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. We speculate the process he used to make these coins did not subject the raw gold dust he received to 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, however, as the gold dust he used contained silver, tin, and other metals as impurities. Despite his efforts to repudiate these adverse claims he rather quickly ended his efforts at minting coins.
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.
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