In 1850, Congress directed the U.S. Treasury to establish an Assay Office in California, and Moffat & Co. received the contract to perform the Assay Office’s duties. Augustus Humbert was appointed as U.S. Assayer of Gold in California, and in 1851, he stamped the Assay Office’s first $50 octagonal coin-ingots. Although the ingots were not officially recognized as coins, they were accepted as on par with U.S. gold coins. One problem with them: they didn’t quench California’s thirst for gold coins. The state was awash in gold dust and people with wages to spend. Furthermore, the ingots were of such high value that they drove the lower-purity $5, $10, and $20 private gold coins from the market, and people returned to using gold dust for transactions.
Thus in 1852, Moffat and Humbert resumed issuing $10 and $20 gold coins, which had been discouraged by the state legislature and the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. That year, Moffat left his company to enter the diving bell industry—the desire for gold being so great that diving bells had been invented that allowed people to go underwater to glean gold from riverbeds.
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