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A coin that conjures up California Gold Rush

Vasudha Venugopal
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About a month ago, the Government Museum Egmore acquired a rare gold coin from the Pudukottai government museum that houses the coin collection of the Tondaiman kings, who once ruled Pudukottai.

The coin which has an image of an eagle and legend on the obverse side, is on display as part of the ‘Exhibit of the Week,' programme at the museum here.

Explaining the history of the coin, N. Sundararajan, curator, Numismatics gallery, said that it was minted by Augustus Humbert at the United States Assay Office in San Francisco.

It is one of the ‘territorial coins,' minted during the California Gold Rush that began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California.

This discovery sparked off a major migration that continued for almost seven years as people from different parts of America and many parts of the world flocked to the state from Oregon, Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), and Latin America. The coin represents what many would consider one of the most fascinating and vibrant periods of California's history, says Mr.Sundararajan. Another highlight of the coin, he adds, is the way the spiral decorates the reverse. “Mr. Humbert, who minted the coin, was a watchmaker before he took up work as an assayer,” he said. S.S. Jawahar, Commissioner of Museums, participated in the inauguration of the exhibition.

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