Bechtler Gold Coinage [1831-1850s]
Gold Hill, Gold Pit Creek, Golden Valley, Gold Mine Branch—these and other similar names can be found today on modern maps of North Carolina. They are names that recall an important part of this state’s past, a time when the ring of picks and the rumble of explosives echoed throughout the foothills of western North Carolina. There, decades before the more famous gold strike in California in 1848, prospectors and miners panned, dug, and blasted millions of dollars in gold from the rocky terrain. During the peak years of gold production in North Carolina, between the late 1820s and 1830s, the state’s mining industry employed over 30,000 people and ranked second only agriculture in its importance to the economy.
Today, the coins that survive from the Bechtler family’s mint in Rutherford County also serve as reminders of North Carolina’s rich gold history. High-grade examples of the dollars, “quarter eagles” ($2.50), and “half eagles” ($5.00) produced by the Bechtlers are preserved in the University Library and are on permanent exhibit in the North Carolina Collection Gallery in Wilson Library. Herman Bernard of High Point, N.C., donated a superb twenty-four-coin set of Bechtler gold to the university in 1981.
Just two months before his death in January 1999, Herman Bernard attended the opening of the North Carolina Collection Gallery’s “Hard Cash & Hard Times” exhibition. In the image above, at that event, the High Point collector sits next to the special safe in which his donated set of Bechtler coins are on permanent display.
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