1849 $5 Mormon gold PCGS AU50 CAC. 1849 was the only Mormon gold date with more than one denomination struck. The Mormons struck two and a half dollar, five dollar, ten dollar, and twenty dollar pieces in this year, but only five dollar pieces in 1850 and 1860. Most of the Mormon gold was struck beginning in September 1849 and continued until 1851. The Salt Lake Tribune of July 17, 1898, reported “At first the $2½ pieces were most plentiful and popular. Then a large number of $5 coins were made, and these constituted the bulk of the mint’s work. Not many $10 pieces were minted, and the $20 coins were still fewer.” From this information we infer the period of the most activity occurred in 1850 and most coins were dated as such. The design created for the 1849 coins was symbolic of the Mormon Church itself as well as its desire to live in friendship with its neighbors. Each of the four denominations struck that year showed clasped hands on the obverse with a three-pointed Phyrgian crown over an all-seeing eye of Jehovah on the reverse.
The present example is one of the best preserved examples we’ve seen in any grade. It’s obviously entirely original. Not only that, we note doubling on both sides! Endorsed by CAC it’s a great piece to add to any advanced collection.
As if by chance, after the Mexican War of 1846, members of the Mormon battalion who had volunteered for service found themselves discharged in California, and were present when gold was first discovered. Soldiers were now transformed into prospectors and brought large quantities of California gold back to the Salt Lake City area. By some accounts over $80,000 worth of gold was imported during the first two years. As in California and Oregon, the settlers managed to tolerate the use of gold-dust, but were generally dissatisfied with it.
In November 1848, ten-dollar dies were commissioned but the production of the coins failed for technical reasons and the Church resorted to circulating paper currency, backed by gold-dust, until such time that coinage could be resumed with superior equipment obtainable in the East. In September of 1849 minting resumed and four denominations were struck including a $2.50, $5 and $20 in 1849 and a $5 in 1850. While the ten-dollar pieces featured the legend PURE GOLD, the other denominations displayed the initials G.S.L.C.P.G. These stood for “Great Salt Lake City Pure Gold,” an obvious misnomer as all the gold came from California. Minting continued well into 1851.
In 1852 or 1853, two gold miners from Nevada named Reese bought the press and dies of the Church coiners and proceeded to mint coins from gold obtained in the Carson Valley. Contemporary accounts state that the Nevada gold was worth only $11.50 per ounce, compared with $16-18.50 per ounce for California gold. Obviously enraged at the fraud, the Church called in and redeemed the inferior issues and had the dies destroyed. This action, plus a decline in the amount of raw gold imported, presumably accounted for the failure of the Church to engage further in coining activities until well after the Utah War of 1857-58.
The last coining of gold by the Church Mint took place in 1860, from bullion brought from strikes in Colorado, when only five dollar pieces were minted. These were of different design and type than the earlier “Half Eagles,” the dies having been cut by different engravers. The issue of these pieces ceased soon after it had begun, as a result of a prohibitory order in 1861. The 1860 coins were struck by the Deseret Assay Office, which used the Deseret alphabet (now extinct) to spell out the legend HOLINESS TO THE LORD.
Mormon coins were the first of the Western territorials to be publicly vilified as lightweight and of low fineness. When the results of various assays became public knowledge, coins were discounted 20-25% by bankers and merchants. Widespread melting followed, and today Mormon gold pieces are very rare, although circulated fives occasionally appear.