William S. writes: I have found an old coin, unlike any I have seen before. It is the approx. size of a quarter but all I can read on it is, CALIFORNIA on top the year is 1848 and it appears to have a man panning gold while on one knee. Can you please help me identify this coin? Any help would be gratefully accepted.
There are several medals and coins that have a motif of a man panning for gold, including a United States commemorative half dollar minted in 1925 at the San Francisco Mint. The best known of the medal types are the medals issued by the California Medalists Society in San Francisco. The medals were minted at the request of the California State Chamber of Commerce in 1948. Approximately 4000 pieces were minted with 1000 examples gold plated and mounted in a folder.
One example: The obverse shows a miner panning for gold with a log cabin and mountains in the background. The legend around is CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION OF THE DISCOVERY OF GOLD IN CALIFORNIA 1848-1948. The reverse shows a helmeted female, facing left, holding a spear in her right hand. In the background are ships sailing on a bay; there is a bear above. These are quite scarce and probably are worth in the $75+ range in decent grade.