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Gold Coin Found By Construction Worker in Sonora, California

April 9, 2013 - Recently, Eberardo Rodriguez of Moreno Valley was putting in high-speed internet cables in downtown Sonora, to link the traditionally sleepy town to the fast-paced internet age. Rodriguez was trenching the asphalt at Green and Bradford Streets in Sonora, shoveling dirt with his digging bar when he discovered a dime-sized gold coin predating both the Gold Rush and the statehood of California.

The gold coin was minted in 1844 in Charlotte, NC, and according to its markets had a $2.50 denomination at the time of its minting.

The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation’s statistics indicate that the Charlotte Mint stuck only 11,622 examples, though it is not currently known how many of those original examples survive. At current market prices, the gold in the coin Rodriguez found is worth $195.01, though features of the numismatic coin such as its minting and current condition ultimately determine its value.

A Sonora resident and coin collector, Gerald Howard, said the coin may have a special mintmark, which would make it very valuable. Gary Carter, owner of DD’s Antiques N Such in Jamestown, offered to buy the coin from Rodriguez for $300, but Rodriguez declined to sell it.

Carter inspected the coin and noticed it had been worn down on both sides, partially an effect of the coin’s being in the streets of Sonora. He stated that if the coin was in excellent condition it would have booked for $900 and up.

Sharon Marovich, chairwoman of the Tuolumne County Heritage Committee, said downtown Sonora’s streets weren’t paved until around 1922 and until the 20th century people panned for gold in the dirt streets.

Mine tailings, or the refuse dirt from local mining operations, were unloaded onto the roads in order to smooth them over and during periods of rain it wasn’t uncommon for people to sift through them in search of gold.

For Marovich, Rodriguez’s discovery of the gold coin is significant because it shows the history of the town of Sonora, which is encapsulated and coating all of downtown.

Collectors in the modern market are well aware of the high value of gold coinage at current market prices and stories of gold holdings being found, usually by surviving relatives, are often read as a piece of history getting handed down in modern times.

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Stewart Lawson

Senior Staff Writer -

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