Another interesting item in the January 2019 issue of Alaskan Token Collector and Polar Numismatist is this piece on gold dust as currency. Republished with permission.
Thanks, Dick! -Editor
GOLD DUST AS CURRENCY
From "Rand McNally Guide to Alaska and Yukon," reporting on a trip down the Yukon River (1922).
"We soon pass the mouth of the Koyukuk River. Steamers of light draft take supplies to the far distant placer camp which is in the Arctic Circle. This has been known as the
Koyukuk country and has been a good producer. In fact, it has always been a self-sustaining camp, no money from the outside being needed in its development, taking at all times
enough gold dust out to run itself. Very little if any outside money or "Cheechako Money" as silver, gold, or paper is called, being used in the camp. Gold dust is the common
medium of exchange."
I'd never heard the term "Cheechako Money". The online dictionary Wordnik defines "cheechako" as "someone new to Alaska or the Yukon. Originally a reference
to the Gold Rush newcomers." Here's an interesting story I found while looking for more information. -Editor
William Hiscock related that one day while walking in Dawson City he saw a man throwing silver coins out into the river. Someone had just purchased goods in his store and paid
in Cheechako (silver) money. "He said nothing but would have preferred the gold dust currency so he calmly takes the money and walks out to the bank of the river and disposes of
it, so that it will not come into the shop again."
Hiscock said that everybody carried their gold dust in a small buckskin bag and when a purchase was made in any of the stores, large or small, you poured the gold into a small
tin scoop and then shook it in to a small set of gold scales. The amounts for convenience were dollars and cents stamped on the weights.
At the time gold dust was worth about $16 an ounce. Today gold is in the $1750-$1800 range per ounce. Seen above is a fellow paying for a loaf of bread with gold dust.
Cheechako Money was also known as Steamboat or Riverboat Money - what the newcomers had in their pocket. In Yukon, the First Nations (Indians) much preferred the tokens of
Taylor Drury and Pedlar (based in Whitehorse, but they had trading posts throughout the Yukon). This is evidenced by how worn, beat up and bent their aluminum tokens are.
I had not heard the story about throwing silver money away. If someone came into a saloon or store and tried to pay with cents, nickels or dimes, it is reported that they were
just brushed onto the floor. Nothing smaller than a quarter. I have some gold scale weights made by J.L. Sale, a jeweler who had stores in Dawson, Grand Forks (Bonanza) and
To read the complete articles, see:
Cheechako money (http://www.skagwaystories.org/2011/08/09/cheechako-money/)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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