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[Tidbits] Coinage of the Old West

Before coins… gold and gold dust was the medium of exchange.
Measurements were a tad less than accurate. How much for the blanket
my good man? And a bit o’ chawin’ terbaccy? And a couple a them candy
cane peppermint sticks? Can’t abide bein’ without my peppermint
sticks. Two bits, you say? And the old prospector would dip into his
bag and bring up–between thumb and forefinger–a pinch of gold dust.
A pinch back then was calculated to be worth two bits. And it is this
practice that gave birth to the saying: “How much can you raise in a

But before coins were used as money… what was it that they used for
currency back in the beginning of things? Well… there was grain and
wheat and barley and rice. There was metal in lumps or ingots. There
were rings and bracelets and axes and hoes. And then… and then…
there was salt. It was given as an allowance to military personnel.
The Latin word for salt, you ask? Oh… what a clever question.
Why… of course… it’s “salarium”… from which is derived the word
"salary". And here I digress for a scant second to give credit to a
friend of mine named Ron who promised to march in the Saint Patty’s
Day Parade and who loves words even more than I do–if you can
believe such a thing–who said to me after I told him the salt
story… that must be where they got “He ain’t worth his salt”.
Methinks ol’ Ron is right.

Shields were also used as currency… as were knives and surely
spears. How much for that spear my good man? One shield sire. And the
exchange was made. Now one had a weapon and one had an anti-weapon.
The more things change… the more they remain the same.

In certain parts of the world… dog’s teeth were used as currency.
They were quite valuable… as only the upper canines were used. Dog
farms came into being… used for the sole purpose of raising the
animals for their teeth. Money… it would appear… was in the root
of all teeth.

And then along came the civilization that invented coins. The
Greeks. It was an ancestor of King Croesus of Lydia who used gold to
make the first coins. And then there was America. And we created our
own coins. Some rather mundane. Some quite gorgeous. And some very
unique. It’s the unique ones I like best. A one hundred dollar gold
piece. A coin of extreme uniquability.

Now here’s the thing of this old coin which dates back to the 1850’s
San Francisco and was minted by one H. M. Naglee & Co… it’s
rectangular and it’s easily identifiable. It looks a bit like an
ingot. Take this info and compare it with today’s government’s
attempts to make a one dollar coin which nobody wants. And why don’t
they want it? This is only my opinion… but it looks like all the
other coins and is easy to mix up. Make it rectangular however…
make it unique… and it will be accepted… with pride no less. One
man’s opinion only. Let me know if you agree or not.

That said… as I end my refrain…

For those of you who are new to this thing called Tidbits…may I
direct you to my home page at where you will
scroll down the left side menu till you get to the area that says
Current Tidbits… and then click on it in order to view an old gold
rectangular coin that looks a bit like an ingot and is worth one
hundred dollars. Front is value. Back is purity of gold.

And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
Benjamin Mark