A one-of-a-kind California Gold Rush coin, preserved for years by one of Baltimore's most prominent families, will return here next month for the first time in nearly 30 years.
The 154-year-old $20 gold piece known as the Kellogg Twenty - now worth $3 million - will be displayed during the American Numismatic Association World's Fair of Money in the Baltimore Convention Center from July 30 to Aug. 2. Once owned by Baltimore resident and diplomat John Work Garrett, the coin is considered by collectors to be one of the finest American coins from the mid-19th century.
"When you pick up this coin, you're literally holding Gold Rush history in your hands," said Steven L. Contursi, president of Rare Coin Wholesalers of Dana Point, Calif., the coin's owner. "This is a homecoming. It's the first time it will be publicly seen in Baltimore in 28 years."
Garrett, the descendant of a one-time Baltimore and Ohio Railroad president, donated the coin, along with his home, Evergreen House, to the Johns Hopkins University upon his death in 1942. Hopkins sold the coin at auction in 1980 for $230,000, and it has changed hands several times since then.
The coin was made Feb. 9, 1854, by John Glover Kellogg, a New York native who worked as an assayer - someone who tests minerals to determine their composition - during the California Gold Rush. According to Contursi, only a few Kellogg $20 pieces survive, and none is in such good condition as the one Garrett once owned.
"There are few pre-1964 coins graded this high, and for that the coin is exceptional," said Douglas Mudd, curator of American Numismatic Association's Money Museum. "Somebody took care of it from the moment it was struck."
Contursi said he will display the coin in a specially constructed, 5-foot-tall wooden exhibit case designed to resemble the 19th-century cabinets that housed the United States Mint's coin collection. The coin will be displayed from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. July 30 through Aug. 1, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 2. The event is free and open to the public.