In the event of a government shutdown, American History will remain OPEN through at least Saturday, October 7, by using prior year funds. Visit for updates.

Gold Fever

The discovery of gold nuggets in the American River near Sacramento, California, brought waves of people to the region. With no official mint, private companies soon began striking their own coins. The U.S. Assayer of Gold, a government contractor, collected and tested the gold until the San Francisco branch mint opened in 1854.

Gold from Sutter’s Mill, 1848

James Marshall found this tiny piece of pure gold in the tailrace of John Sutter’s Coloma, California, sawmill on January 24, 1848. This is the actual nugget that sparked the rush for California gold.

Government Transfer

Watch fob enclosing gold flakes

Gift of Chase Manhattan Bank

$5 gold coin, Norris, Gregg & Norris, 1849

Norris, Gregg & Norris were businessmen from New York who headed west and established a mint near San Francisco. They struck $5 pieces only and were the first coin makers in California to strike money in any real quantity.

Government Transfer

$20 plated token, California Gold Mines, 1850

This piece from a fictional company was probably used as a gaming chip.

Gift of Stack’s

$50 gold coin (proof), U.S. Assay Office, 1851

$20 gold coin, U.S. Assay Office, 1853

Gift of Chase Manhattan Bank