North Carolina is known for many wonderful things — being “First in Flight,” Carolina BBQ, Biltmore Estate (the largest private residence in the US), being the home of NASCAR, and much more. 

But did you know North Carolina has a strong history of gold and sound money?

Here are three fun facts about North Carolina and our history of gold and sound money so you can know a bit more on the subject. 

First gold rush in North America 

North Carolina is home to the first gold rush in North America, which was kicked off with the initial discovery of a 17-pound gold nugget in Cabarrus County in 1799. This treasure of a find was discovered by 12-year-old Conrad Reed while he was fishing in his family’s creek. 

His father, John Reed, soon began searching for more gold and uncovered nugget after nugget. Eventually, the word got out that gold was nearly spilling out of the North Carolina soil. 

By 1805, the first gold rush in North America began in North Carolina spreading throughout Cabarrus, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Rowan, Stanly, and Union counties. Gold mining in North Carolina became the second-strongest industry in the state in the 1800s, after agriculture.

The North Carolina Gold Rush was strongest from 1805 until 1848, with the start of the California Gold Rush, but continued producing gold bullion until the beginning of the Civil War in 1861. 

Today, you can still visit the site of the first major gold discovery at the Reed Gold Mine in Midland. This is a great place for families to teach their children about state history, gold mining, and sound money. They even allow panning for gold. 

Bechtler gold dollar 

North Carolina is where the United States had the country’s first gold dollar coin created, accomplished by a private mint known as the Bechtler Mint in Rutherfordton. 

Minted by Christopher Bechtler in 1831, the Becthtler dollar gold coin was the epitome of sound money. Before the National Banking Act of 1864, private mints could produce gold or silver coins. 

This free market approach to competitive currency started 18 years before the United States Mint would make a gold dollar coin. It incentivized the North Carolina Gold Rush to continue to flourish in the state and circulate sound money that would not deteriorate purchasing power via arbitrary printing, as fiat currency does. 

The Bechtler Mint was highly successful and influential in gold coinage in North Carolina from 1831 through the late 1840s, riding the height of the wave of gold mining in the state. If the Bechtler Mint had not been available for people to coin their gold, it would have drawn miners and businesses to Pennsylvania. 

A key reason for this is because during that time the United States Mint only had one location, the Philadelphia Mint, and they offered free coining of gold or silver. However, the journey from NC to PA was quite long and treacherous in the 1800s, and the mintage of coins took time — especially because it was originally a free service. 

The Bechtler Mint not only provided the first gold dollar coin in the US, but because of the market needs they fulfilled, they were also a crucial component of sustaining the NC Gold Rush and keeping more business and wealth in the state. 

Today, you can still visit the site of the Bechtler Mint and learn more about the history of the mint, the people behind it, and the gold dollar coins they proudly produced. 

Surprisingly, there is no direct relation between the Bechtler Mint and the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in Charlotte. 

Charlotte Mint 

The early success of the NC Gold Rush and the Bechtler Mint inspired the US Mint to open a mint in Charlotte in 1835. This mint location was one of three opened that year: The New Orleans Mint, the Dahlonega Mint in Georgia, and the Charlotte Mint. 

The only coins produced at the Charlotte Mint were gold coins, until 1861 when the mint was closed for Civil War efforts. 

Over the years the Charlotte Mint location was used for various community clubs and events, and the building was eventually moved down the road. In fact, in 1933, the same year Franklin D. Roosevelt made owning gold illegal, was when the mint was moved. 
In 1936, the transported mint building was made into the Charlotte Mint Museum of Art (Randolph) — a local treasure still appreciated today. The art museum proudly displays some of the gold coins the former US Mint location produced, allowing patrons to get a glamorous glimpse of the state’s shiny past.  

Overall, North Carolina has a prominent history of gold mining and sound money policies. There is still immense potential in the state for a return to gold mining and being a leader in sound money for the country. We were the first gold rush state, the first producer of a dollar gold coin, and a central hub for producing sound money currency for the United States. It is doubtful that all of the gold has been mined and it is certain that there is plenty of room for more sound money influence throughout the US.