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Viewpoint: Nugget News Story Should Be Relevant to Coin Collectors

By Dominic Cicio

I just read your article about NGC encapsulating Gold Rush nuggets in the May 5 issue of Numismatic News. Sunken treasure generally makes a good story, and authentic Gold Rush nuggets certainly bring the Old West to mind. Now, we know the nuggets were on the way to New York City, I can only guess that because NGC encapsulated the nuggets, it makes them a collectible?

If you told us that the nuggets were going to be melted down into planchets and then off to the Philadelphia Mint to make $20 Liberty Heads, it would tie into numismatics. A buying point would be, “Own a nugget that could have been a $20 Liberty Head!” Philadelphia minted about 439,000 $20 Liberty Heads in 1857. You could have mentioned that, with these nuggets, they rescued an additional 7,500 coins mostly consisting of 1857 double eagles along with gold ingots.

You did tell us that each nugget ranges in 3/100th of a gram to as big as 4/10th of a gram. As a point of information, a $20 Liberty Head in 1857 weighed 33.436 grams. It was 90 percent gold and 10 percent copper. It was .9675 ounces of pure gold. How many of those Gold Rush nuggets would it have taken to make one $20 Liberty Head? I had to pull out my Whitman “Red Book” for data. Then I found on page 386 the story about the SS Central America.

This had me asking, how much are they selling these nuggets for? There are 31 grams to a troy ounce. Figure about 3 grams to a tenth of an ounce and bullion going for little over $1,700. There is a 2.68-gram nugget pictured in the article. What did it sell for or what was it appraised for? There are 15.432 grains in a gram (thank you, Google).

I have a miniature 1933 $10 gold piece, solid 14 karat gold encapsulated in plastic by the Historic Providence Mint. It is a minuscule gold coin and probably worth $5 or $10.

Your article can appear to be more of an advertisement for NGC and Asset Marketing Services than it was information for your readers. In the future when you write these articles, please add more information. Please don’t take this letter the wrong way. Do remember that if there are many collectors like me, we do not think in grams and grains.