On the 24th of July 1847, Brigham Young entered the Valley of the Great Salt Lake and proclaimed, This is the place. Young, who had led his Mormon followers westward from Illinois, was, in addition to being a highly regarded religious leader, a superb organizer and chief executive.

As the population and economy grew in Salt Lake City and beyond, the need for circulating coins increased proportionately. A barter system, using primarily produce, evolved as soon as crops were harvested. Any available U.S. or foreign coins were needed to purchase supplies and goods that could not be acquired through trading.

The California Gold Rush of 1848, created an initial flood of immigration into California from Utah. Young, fearing a population drain from his newly settled territory; initially forbade the Mormons from joining this mass exodus. He shrewdly realized that Salt Lake City would become a center of trade for the thousands of pioneers heading out west to seek their fortunes.

Gold dust, brought back to Utah by returning miners, became a source of badly needed trade. However, as experienced elsewhere, gold dust was impractical for almost all day-to-day transactions. At the request of Brigham Young, a mint was set up in Salt Lake City for the purpose of minting gold coins from the dust brought in from California. This mint opened up for the purchase of gold dust on December 10th, 1848. Thomas Bullock served as mint director. Young actively supervised the operation.

$10 gold coins were going to be first minted one month later. $2.50, $5 coins, and the first $20 denomination coin in the United States followed shortly, all dated 1849. A committee that included Brigham Young designed the coins. The obverse features an all seeing eye surrounded by the inscription: HOLINESS TO THE LORD. The reverse features a pair of clasped hands with the abbreviated inscription: G.S.L.C. (Great Salt Lake City), P.G. (Pure Gold), and the spelled out denomination. $5 coins were also minted in 1850.

The final coin from this mint, also a $5, was struck in 1860. The coin features a lion and the newly invented Deseret alphabet on the obverse. The reverse depicts an eagle and beehive under:DESERET ASSAY OFFICE PURE GOLD. This is the first known public use of the Deseret alphabet, a unique attempt at linguistic self-sufficiency by the Mormons. The gold used in these 1860 coins came from newly discovered mines in Colorado.

The gold coins from the mint at Salt Lake City are today extremely rare and highly desired. Seldom offered to the public, they are rich in symbolism and history.