5 Dollars, United States, 1849

5 Dollars, United States, 1849

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In 1848, the largest single gold rush in history was just getting under way in California. This event soon triggered a mass migration of fortune hunters from around the world. At the outset, much of the California gold was converted to coins by private minters in the San Francisco area. However, supplies of gold were also sent to Philadelphia where it was made into ordinary federal coins.
Smaller quantities of gold made it to various locations including Oregon. Between March and September, 1849, an entity calling itself the Oregon Exchange Company struck $10 and $5 coins, by hand, in Oregon City. Both denominations bore simple designs. Their obverses depicted a beaver, the fur-bearing mammal that had spurred the first interest in the region.
Above the animal, there were initials standing for the last names of the principal players in the operation. The initials O.T. or T.O. (both for Oregon Territory) and the date rounded out the obverse design. For the reverse, the name of the issuing authority and the denomination sufficed. Dies for the coins can still be seen at the Oregon Historical Society headquarters in Portland.
But the life of the Oregon mint was brief. The coiners set their products' weight above federal norms, and most of the Oregon coinage was melted down for profit. The mint ceased operation early in September 1849.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Oregon Exchange Company
place of issue
United States: Oregon
Physical Description
gold (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
overall: dia. 22 mm; wt. 8.558 g
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Government Transfer: US DOTT, USM
See more items in
Work and Industry: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Coins, Currency and Medals
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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