Previous Issuer | Next Issuer | Pioneer Gold Coins by Type


In 1849, the Columbus and California Industrial Association of Columbus, Ohio contracted for trial pieces in copper and gilt-silver of a proposed Columbus Company $5 gold coin.  Three examples are known today, as follows:

1.  Gilt-Silver.  National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.

2.  Copper, 87.5 grains, Extremely Fine.  Provenance: Virgil Brand - Burdette Johnson (St. Louis Coin Company), November 15, 1934 - John Work Garrett - Bowers & Ruddy Galleries 1980 sale of the Garrett Collection, Part II, Lot 888 at $18,000.

3.  Gilt-Silver.  1890 sale of the Lorin G. Parmalee Collection.  Fine-VF

None are known in gold.

Sources and/or recommended reading:
Bowers & Ruddy Galleries, Inc. 1980 sale of the Garrett Collection, Part II, Lot 888.

Tebben, Gerald, "On My Way To California", July 19, 1999 issue of COIN WORLD Magazine, Amos Press, Sidney, OH, pp. 74-76

Personal conversation with Dr. Donald Kagin, September 7, 1999.


Until the recent discovery of an article in the Daily Ohio State Journal, February 15, 1849, nothing was known concerning the details of this company, except for its name on the surviving copper and silver trial pieces. The company’s full name was Columbus and California Industrial Association, composed of thirty partners who contributed $225 each. Officers were John Walton, President; J.G. Canfield, Vice President; P. Decker, Secretary; and G.Q.McColm, Treasurer.  They and G. Walton, T.J. Price, H. Moore, G. Breyfogle, and James Bryden were listed as directors.

The association was organized on February 15, 1849, and evidently to commemorate the event, that date was scratched on a silver $5 trial piece. This item, another silver piece, and a copper $5 trial strike were originally discovered in the East. Passage to California was delayed by ice on the Ohio River, but by April 2, 1849, the weather had improved and the newspaper announced, "The Boys are off for California."

The Columbus and California Industrial Association traveled with ten wagons, forty mules, and a full complement of minting equipment, provisions, and arms. As they traveled , the pioneers divided themselves into five "messes" with one director each.

Leaving Columbus, the association passed through Xenia (the railroad there was in the planning stage) and then on to Cincinnati. There they boarded the river steamer to Independence, Missouri, and commenced their trek across the plains.

The company probably arrived at the Sacramento Valley in the autumn of 1849, and soon afterwards left for the gold fields. Perhaps because they were homesick or only moderately successful, President John Walton along with J. Stone, J. Price, D. Rugg, and C. Dewitt returned to Columbus after little more than a year in California. Director C. Breyfogle and his group remained for two years. Evidently both returning groups had experienced some business success, because they took the more expensive route home, involving steamers to Panama, New Orleans, and up the Mississippi.

The avowed purpose of the Columbus and California Industrial Association was to commence mining operations and thus procure gold and other minerals in California and elsewhere on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. The title and purpose of the Association seems to indicate that if not engaged in gold mining, many of the members were skilled workmen who would have been quick to grasp the advantages and practicality of a private mint.

One member, J. H. Felch, easily could have been the engraver for the "Columbus Company" dies. One of his Ohio advertisements read:


And copper plate printer. Ambus building. Steel, Copper & Wood Engraving in all the various branches, neatly executed. Business Visiting and Professional Cards engraved and printed to order. State, County, Society and other seals engraved on brass or wood. Wood type of all sizes cut to order.  Ladies and Gentlemen having card Plates can have Cards printed on short notice.

--Reprinted with permission of the author from Donald H. Kagin's, "Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States", copyright 1981, Arco Publishing, Inc. of New York, pp 77-78.