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origins for gold coins prior to southern gold rush

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I would guess the gold would have come from commerce and trade with European countries that paid in gold. There were a variety of domestic coins minted before the mint was established, including the Brasher Dabloons which weighed 408 grains and were valued at $15 in New York currency. These were modeled after Spanish dabloons which had a value of 16 reales. There was gold coin that circulated prior to the establishment of the mint, and I suppose that those coins like many base metal coins were melted for our earliest mint pieces. Perhaps Bowers' book on US gold coins sheds some more light on the topic.

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