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Image of Oregon Exchange Company, 10 Dollars, 1849
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Materials: Gold
Measurement: Dia. 27.2 mm, Wt. 16.968 g
Source: Transfer from U.S. Mint

Oregon Exchange Company, 10 Dollars, 1849

In 1848, the largest single gold rush in history was just getting under way in California. This event soon triggered a mass migration of fortune hunters from around the world. At the outset, much of the California gold was converted to coins by private minters in the San Francisco area. However, supplies of gold were also sent to Philadelphia where the metal was turned into ordinary federal coins.

Smaller quantities of gold made it to various locations including Oregon. Between March and September of 1849, an entity calling itself the Oregon Exchange Company struck $10 and $5 coins, by hand, in Oregon City. Both denominations bore simple designs. Their obverses depicted a beaver, the fur-bearing mammal that had spurred the first interest in the region. Above the animal, there were initials standing for the last names of the principal players in the operation.

The initials O.T. or T.O. (both for Oregon Territory) and the date rounded out the obverse design. For the reverse, the name of the issuing authority and the denomination sufficed. Scholars believe that around 2,850 of the $10 coins were made. Dies for them can still be seen at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland.

But the life of the Oregon mint was brief. The coiners set their products’ weight above federal norms, and most of the Oregon coinage was melted down for profit. The mint ceased operation early in September 1849.
Related Events
1833: President Andrew Jackson vetoes the charter of Bank of United States, abolishing the institution.
1838: Branch mints open in Dahlonega, Ga., Charlotte, N.C., and New Orleans, La.
1848: Gold discovered at John Sutter's mill in California.
1850: California is admitted to the Union as the 31st state.
1859: Oregon admitted into the Union as the 33rd state.
Golden Legends The following objects are in this section.
Templeton Reid, 10 Dollars, 1830United States, 5 Dollars, 1838Oregon Exchange Company, 5 Dollars, 1849Clark, Gruber & Co., 20 Dollars, 1860
Templeton Reid, 5 Dollars, 1830United States, 2 1/2 Dollars, 1848U.S. Assay Office, 50 Dollars, 1851 
Templeton Reid, 2 1/2 Dollars, 1830United States, 20 Dollars, 1849 (Pattern)Kellogg & Co., 50 Dollars, 1855 
Bechtlers, 5 Dollars, 1834Oregon Exchange Company, 10 Dollars, 1849United States, 50 Dollars, 1877 (Pattern) 
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