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Tiny pieces of Gold Rush history fetch big bucks

Sunday - 4/21/2013, 11:10pm  ET

Associated Press

RENO, Nev. (AP) -- Tiny pieces of California Gold Rush history fetched big bucks at a Reno auction of Western Americana.

Holabird-Kagin Americana reports the Jack Totheroh (Toth-uh-row) Collection of 200 gold coins privately issued in San Francisco in the 1850s sold for $865,000 -- more than two times above the estimate of $360,000.

The Reno-based company, which staged last week's auction, says the Bergen-Istvan Collection of nearly 50 similar gold coins went for $252,000 -- above the estimate of $162,000.

According to historians, the coins in 25 cent, 50 cent and dollar denominations were struck by jewelers from 1852 to 1857 when there was a shortage of small change in California.

Historians say while banks apparently didn't accept them, they were used at some San Francisco businesses.

Both collections were split up and sold to different buyers.

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