The first gold rush in the United States was not in 1849, but 1828 in Georgia and North Carolina. The discovery of gold in southern Appalachia dates from 1799, when a 17 pound gold nugget was found in a creek near Charlotte, North Carolina by a 12-year-old boy. Mining in the area continued on a limited basis until 1828, when larger deposits of gold were located in two counties. Templeton Reid, of Georgia, started the first private mint devoted to minting gold coins in the United States in 1830. He minted $2.50, $5, and $10 gold coins for only two and one-half months before closing his operation due to lack of public confidence in the gold content of his coins.

A much more successful enterprise was that of the Bechtler family of Rutherfordton, North Carolina. Metallurgist, gold and silversmith Christopher Bechtler and his son Augustus were recent German immigrants to Philadelphia. They moved to North Carolina in 1830, probably with the intent of being close to a readily available supply of usable gold. As in future enterprises, miners in the area faced many obstacles when shipping their gold dust to Philadelphia for assaying purposes. Recognizing heavy demand as well as the potential for a good profit, Bechtler started an assay and coining business in 1831. The Bechtlers' output was known for its well-assayed and honest coins. Their coins were so highly regarded that, in the Civil War, the Confederacy stipulated that fiscal obligations were payable in Bechtler gold rather than Union, state, or Confederate coins or currency The Bechtlers struck the first gold dollar produced in America. The family closed their operations in the early 1850's.

The great California Gold Rush of 1848 initiated the development of several private and one quasi-governmental minting operations. Although some gold was known to exist in California prior to 1848, it was the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill on January 24,1848 that touched off the monumental stampede that quickly engulfed the continent. As before, in Georgia and North Carolina, the assay of gold dust into coins or bars in a timely manner, was of great importance to the economy. Gold dust was used as a medium of exchange for some transactions, but there were abuses on both sides of the retail counter. Sending gold to the mints of New Orleans or Philadelphia was not cost effective and held huge risks for the miner. The alternative was the creation of several private assay offices or mints in California. Companies such as Norris, Gregg Norris, Moffat Company, Baldwin Company, Kellogg Co., and Wass, Molitor Co. were established and enjoyed varying degrees of success through 1855 when coinage operations ceased in California. A U.S. Assay Office opened, in 1851 in San Francisco, using employees from the firm, Moffat Company. This Assay Office would later evolve into the San Francisco mint, which was opened in 1854. A series of fractional denomination gold coins was privately minted from 1852 to 1882. These tiny gold coins tried to meet the huge demand for small change in a booming economy. Mostly issued by San Francisco area jewelers, these coins were struck in 25 cent, 50 cent and one-dollar denominations in round or octagonal shapes.

Other areas of the West that would produce coins or ingots were Utah, Oregon and Colorado. In what is now Utah, the Mormons established a mint in Salt Lake City, using gold from California on December 12, 1848. This operation would last only for three more years with a final issue of $5 gold in 1860, using gold from the new mines in Colorado.

A private mint, operated by the Oregon Exchange Company of Oregon City, began operations in March 1849 using gold dust from California. The $5 and $10 gold coins were soon dubbed Beaver Money, after the device of a beaver on the obverses.

Clark, Gruber and Co. was the most respected financial institution in Colorado. They started out as a bank, went into the assay business, and minted coins and ingots that were beyond reproach. Starting out as a wholesale/retail commodities operation in Leavenworth, Kansas; the Clark brothers (Austin and Milton) formed a banking business partnership with Emmanuel Gruber in March 1859. They moved the firm to Denver, Colorado and opened their bank and mint on July 10, 1860. The coins ($2.50, $5, and $10 denominations) were impeccably well executed. They immediately became the principal currency of the Pike's Peak country. Operations ceased in April 1863 when the Federal Government took over operations as a U.S. Assay office. The modern Denver Mint is a descendent of this lineage.

The establishment of the United States Mint at San Francisco, starting in 1854, would eventually solve the basic needs of this rapidly growing Western economy. The private gold coins, that were created to meet these economic demands, would survive in very small numbers over the years. Today, when available, they spark the imagination and provide a tangible link to the days when gold was king.