1860 Parsons & Co. $20 gold bar?

Hartsel B. writes: I have a small rectangular piece of gold, a little over an inch long and a half inch wide and 1/8 inch thick. On the front in crude stamping it says, “Parsons & C. Assayers Col. 1860 Twenty Dols.”. On the back it is stamped, “Carat 18 1/2 DWT 25 6/10”. What is this?

Dr. John D. Parsons, an Assayer in Oro City, Colorado, c. 1858, was involved with both the real estate business and the gold refining and assay business near the Taryyall Mines in Park county. Very little is know about his operation though in 1861 he minted 2 1/2 dollar and 5 dollar coins as well as trial strikings in copper which today are very rare. This emergency money had similar use as the private issue pieces that were minted during the California Gold Rush days of 1849-1857.

A Parsons & Co. gold bar dated 1860, the same as you described in your note, is known to exist but is thought to be unique. The piece is in the famous Eli Lilly collection currently housed at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. The stated weight of this bar is 39.81 grams but actually weighs a bit less at 39.53 grams.

The 1860 gold $20 ingot is controversial (Why was it made? Is it really from Parsons? Where did the punches come from as the bar predates the arrival of Parsons minting equipment?).

Note that hundreds of base-metal copies of this bar were made by Curtin & Pease for promotional purposes in the 1960’s. They are not gold nor do they weigh 25 6/10th penny weights (DWT). If you think your bar may be genuine, you can start by weighing it. If the weight is correct send the bar for authentication. See Grading Services on the CoinSite Links page.