In Georgia, Templeton’s Reid’s private mint operated for just a short time. Coinage occurred during part of July, all of August and September, and part of October, 1830. Dexter C. Seymour, who studied the series intensively (and wrote The 1830 Coinage of Templeton Reid, published by the American Numismatic Society, 1977 (from which certain of the following information is derived), estimated that only 1,600 coins were produced totally, including approximately 1,000 quarter eagles, 300 half eagles, and 250 eagles.
However, on January 13, 1831 the National Gazette of Philadelphia noted that Templeton Reid had produced more than $200,000 in gold. This would translate to many tens of thousands of coins. However, in the absence of surviving specimens to support this figure, the estimate provided by Dexter C. Seymour seemed to more likely to be correct.
As there was no collector interest in the pieces at the time, and as such coins had little status outside of the area in which they were issued, most were subsequently melted. Only a few specimens exist today, mostly of the quarter eagle denomination. The half eagles and eagles, examples of which are offered in the following pages, are extreme rarities.
“Gold in Them Thar Hills”
Gold was discovered in Georgia during the 1820’s. by the end of the decade news had spread, and many fortune seekers had arrived in the district. Templeton Reid, a resident of Milledgeville, then the state capital of Georgia, sought to fill a commercial need by converting gold dust, then traded by weight in the area, into coins. Reid’s experience in the field of mechanical activities was extensive and included making complete cotton gins, repairing clocks and watches, and manufacturing rifles. To such an artisan, making coins presented no difficulty.
On July 24, 1830, an article appeared in the Southern Recorder which told of Reid’s new coinage enterprise:
We have examined, during the past week, with great pleasure, an apparatus constructed by our very ingenious fellow citizen, Mr. Temple Reid, for the purpose of putting gold into a shape more convenient than that in which it is originally found. He makes with great facility and great neatness, pieces worth ten, five and tow and a half dollars. No ally is mixed with it, and it is so stamped that it cannot be easily imitated. He sets out soon for the mines, and intends putting his apparatus into operation, as soon as he reaches them.
About $1,500 worth of Georgia Gold has been stamped by our ingenious townsman, Mr. Templeton Reid, with handsome dies, showing the actual value of each piece of metal, in parcels of $2.50, $5, and $10. The pieces of ten dollars have on one side this inscription: GEORGIA GOLD, 1830, and on the other, TEN DOLLARS, TEMPLETON REID, ASSAYER. The die of the five dollar is not inferior in execution to the stamp on the coins issued from the national Mint. Mr. Reid informs us that the gold dust stamped by him will be taken at the Mint and at most of the banks for the value it purports on its face to bear. This will give a pretty general currency, and make it answer the purposed of money. Mr. R. intends making an establishment in the gold region for the purpose of assaying and marking the gold as it may be found, which will be a great convenience and saving to the miners, who have heretofore been obliged to part with the precious metal in its crude state at a loss from five to fifteen per cent. Reid’s seven percent profit seems reasonable.
A short time thereafter, Templeton Reid moved his facilities to Gainesville, Georgia, which was closer to the center of actual mining activity (about 10 miles). Coins were produced and put into circulation. Unfortunately, one found its way to an unhappy citizen who mounted a personal campaigning d’s venture. Styling himself anonymously as “No Assayer,” he wrote a letter to the Georgia Courier, which was published on August 16, 1830:
>Mr. Editor: Although no assayer, I have taken the trouble of having a piece of Mr. Templeton Reid’s coining, purporting to be worth $10 assayed at the mint. It was found to be but 22.5 carats fine; consequently worth a trifle more than Georgia Gold dust. The actual value is $9.38c, giving Mr. Reid a profit of about 7 percent. The value of Mr. Reid’s coin may be estimated as follows:$10 pieces $9.38; $5 pieces $4.69; $2.50 pieces $2 and 34 cents.
It is believed that Reid produced his coins from native metal without alloying it to a standard fineness. Although the pieces were worth less than the face value indicated upon them, it is not known whether Reid was seeking an unusually high profit from this coinage or whether it was simply an honest oversight. It is to be remembered that in the 1830 era emphasis was on the full intrinsic value of coins. Any gold (or silver) coin issued by the United State Mint, by a private source, or by any other entity was apt to be viewed with suspicion if it did not contain full weight and value. Today, 1984, the situation is vastly different, and all currency has a fictitious value; the intrinsic value concept is simply something one reads about in history books.
While today one would question the fact that a $10 gold piece might have contained metal to the value of only $9.38, in 1830 it was a serious situation. Templeton Reid prepared a rebuttal which appeared in the Georgia journal of September 11, 1830:
I have just seen an article in the Courier of the 16th inst. which I wish you to re-publish, with my remarks on the same. It is over the signature of No Assayer.No Assayer beings by acknowledging he is no assayer, which was unnecessary; for I expect everybody knows that , even before his expose on the subject of my coin. But if he had ended by saying he was no calculator, nor knew anything about the standard worth of gold by the carat, he would deserve some credit for his candor. He says he “has taken the trouble to have a piece of my coin, purporting to be worth $10, assayed at the Mint. It was found to be but 22.5 carats fine.” Now reckon again ---the $10 piece I have estimated at 96 cents per dwt---he at 22.5 carate fine---value $9.38---”a trifle--- consequently worth a trifle more than Georgia gold dust.” And another strange calculation, “$9.38 cents, giving him a profit of about 7 per cent” when it is well known that the buyers have to give from 87.5(the lowest) to 90 cents per dwt at the mines, which is more than 22 carat gold is worth at the Mint. And the gold dust taken collectively from the mines, with the ordinary cleaning, will lose from 3 to 6 per cent in fluxing. Where, then is the “7 pe cent profit.” No buyer can average on month’s business, for the gold fluxed, to cost him as low as the worth of 22.5 carats fine a the Mint. I do not know how much “trifle more than Georgia gold dust” is, and it might save some of the heavy buyers, perhaps some in Augusta, to know, if it is not too late, how much they may lose on their gold in fluxing. For according to No Assayer’s weighty statement, they must be engaged in a bad speculation, unless they get premium for the sand, etc.
But as the currency and demand for my coin, and its credit in some of the banks, seem to warrant the course, I shall continue to stamp and issue the Georgia gold and pieces of $10, $5, and $2.50.
The Milledgeville, Augusta, Macon, Columbus, and Athens papers, will please publish the above, and forward their accounts to me, if it convenient to do so. TR
Gold in its native state is always alloyed with other metals, including silver and tin. Apparently, Templeton Reid believed his gold to be nearly pure, which was not the case. In order to determine the precise composition of native gold, sophisticated assay apparatus is needed. Such facilities were not available to Templeton Reid. Reid’s case was pursued in the Georgia Courier, which reported on September 16, 1830:
We are informed that about $230,000 of Georgia gold has been received this city during the last nine months.
NO ASSAYER’s reply to Mr. TEMPLETON REID is received, and will appear on Monday. Report says, Mr. TEMPLETON REID, wise reply to No Assayer we published today, is coining and stamping, in his mint in Gainesville, not less than $700 of Georgia Gold per day. Allowing No Assayer’s calculation of his profits to be correct at 7 per cent, he is making about $15,000 per annum. This is better business than gold digging.
On September 20, 1830, “No Assayer” attacked Templeton Reid’s calculation from several different angles. He again repeated that at the Mint the value of Reid's $10 gold pieces were found to be worth but $9.38. further, he stated that Reid was issuing coins contrary to the Constitution of the United States.
“No Assayer” went on to say:
If he has the right, every individual has the same prerogative. That being the case, does not the evil at once bear upon an honest community? I see no good to result from such a profession as “assayer of Georgia gold” but much injury.
He continued in the article to excoriate Reid for wanting the community to understand that:
The Mint of the United States, managed by men of strictest integrity, and chosen for their knowledge in the science of mineralogy, and bound by the oaths and bond for their faithful discharge of the duties connected with the department of government, is beyond a doubt wrong …
Fancying himself as a public defender, “No Assayer” went on to inform readers that Templeton Reid “cared not for the constitution of the United States or the value of gold at the proper place of coining, the Mint.” He further asserted that Templeton Reid’s claim that banks would take his coins was false. concluding, “I shall take them at their proper value, $9.38, and no more, although they may have $10 marked upon them in bold figure. So much for the “Georgia Assayer” and his mint.”
The activities of “No Assayer” effectively ended Templeton Reid’s epheral coinage. Reid’s outspoken critic was not challenged by the press, which simply printed his letters to the editor as submitted. Considering the expenses involved, it is doubtful Reid indeed made a profit anything like seven percent. And even if he did, the figure would not necessarily have been excessive, for the alternative for a miner to shop unrefined gold to the distant Philadelphia Mint, paying express and insurance charges of five percent in each direction and waiting over a month for return, would probably have been more costly.
Following the ephemeral coinage, Reid’s activities turned back to his earlier interest, including the manufacture of cotton gins and firearms. His death come in August 1851, after which an obituary in the Columbus times noted in part:
Mr. Reid was in many respects an extraordinary man. His genius as a mechanic was of the first order. His skill was equal to his inventive powers. He was a capital artificer in wood and in the metals. His business was that of a gin maker, and his machines have long engaged a high celebrity. His industry was as untiring as his genius was fine. yet, like so many bright spirits who have gone before him, he failed to accumulate much of this world’s goods. Mr. Reid has left behind him many friends, who valued his excellent and kindly qualities of hear, and we’ll remember him as one of those good but eccentric men, who was his own worst enemy.