The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 32, August 6, 2006, Article 8


Fred Holabird writes: "I am doing research for a book on historic
ingots of America.  I would like to create a census of known ingots.
If you have a historic ingot that you did not purchase from Holabird
Americana, I would be pleased to include it in my book.  I would
like to have a full description and photographs, print or digital.
Or I can arrange to have the ingot sent to me and returned at my
expense.  Please contact with any questions or comments.  I can be
reached at this email address: Thank
you for your time.

For more than a decade (probably two decades), I have been
accumulating notes for a possible book on historical ingots. After
working with them throughout my career in mining, I still find them
fascinating, and, as my travels to museums throughout the world
increased, so did my work on ingots worldwide, thanks to museum
curators around the globe. Through this medium it is easy to understand
the undeniable bridge between coinage and mining. That bridge is the

Monaco asked me to write the book I had been waiting for. It has been
an exhaustive effort so far, which has meant that I have spent about
half full-time since March, and I’m still not finished. Yet along the
way, wonderful things have happened. In example, I had inventoried some
of the great collections, uncovering many ingots that have markings
unknown to me, the owners, or others.

I realized that a very serious database needed to be constructed, so
I used a series of more than a dozen private researchers to help me
compile a list of known assayers in all the western states from circa
1849-1899, a process that took fully six months. This list is now some
6000 entries strong, but is far from complete, and will never be
complete because so many assayers were “tramp assayers”, traveling
from mining camp to mining camp. Sometimes, but not always, these
assayers can be found advertising in local mining camp newspapers,
but so often out west, these newspapers, especially those from
ghost towns, no longer exist.

This massive database helped unravel mysteries of some special
pieces, some of which are in a current large-scale auction
scheduled for August.

Further, detailed research has also resulted in a number of
important discoveries. I located what I believe to be the oldest
gold ingots in the world poured in moulds (2000-2200 BC); ingots
clipped and used as money (1000-800BC correlative with the striking
of the first coins); great presentation ingots from first pours of
famous mines, and others.

Some of these discoveries involve lengthy foot trails that I followed
through the mother lode country, from court house to court house,
and mine owner to mine owner. The results have allowed for the creation
of a new category of ingot, which is termed “commemorative”. I use
this term because some ingots fall squarely into this category, and
these ingots are unique to the numismatic community and are not and
were not found within the mining community, the normal source and
makers of precious metal ingots, excepting those made by larger assay
houses on the way to the Branch Mints.

This research has uncovered new information that leads to a possible
conclusion that some of these ingots date to perhaps November-December
1968, and were sold into the numismatic marketplace in 1969. In just
a few years, they will indeed be legitimate antiques. While their
construction appears to date to the period mentioned, they nonetheless
commemorate very important aspects of our colorful gold rush history,
which, frankly, was probably completely unknown to the manufacturer(s).
In so doing, the makers created a collectible ingot. They will be
recognized and discussed in great detail, but, as commemoratives, will
never approach in value the great ingots of the S.S. Central America,
and need to be recognized, once and for all by the collecting community,
for what they really are – a product of modern construction.

The data and information on the topic was so overwhelming, that I
chose to cut off the first volume at 1899, and leave the rest for a
second volume, which I hope to complete shortly too. It is just as
exciting, though contains far fewer ingots, even though it contains
categories such as Bullion ingots (mostly made after the 1964 silver
rush) and mine ingots of the post-1900 mining boom that centered on
Goldfield and Tonopah Nevada.

Some ingots will not be included, or have yet to be determined just
how I will list them. There have been about a dozen pieces that are
suspect to me, but this does not make them fake. I don’t know what to
do with these yet. Testing them using the latest science is necessary,
but I lack the personal finances to perform the tests.

Time constraints will limit the scholarly discussion in print, but I
encourage as much of this as possible. I have always enjoyed helping
numismatists understand the fascinating business I come from – Mining
– and how it is an integral part of all numismatics."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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