By Tom Carrier
Giving away gold to help others is a very special act of generosity. When it is done at Christmas, well, that is a miracle.
But, that’s exactly what happened to the Salvation Army in Denver, Colo., during the 2007 Christmas season. Over a period of six days, six historic $20 gold pieces with dates from 1883 to 1906 showed up in the Salvation Army’s traditional red buckets, but anonymously. To this day, nobody knows who the Secret Santa is that provided such a valuable contribution.
The gold coins are the Liberty $20 gold pieces issued by the U.S. Treasury from 1849 to 1907. The obverse, or “heads” side, features a bust of Lady Liberty facing to the left surrounded by 13 six-pointed stars and the date under Lady Liberty. On the reverse, or tails, is a stylized Great Seal eagle with a glory of 13 six-pointed stars surrounded by sun-rays and the legend, “United States of America” and the denomination “Twenty Dollars.”
“We went to see if we could get them valued after Christmas and WorthPoint stepped forward to help,” said Major Neal Hogan, director of social services for the Salvation Army. “They really have shown a spirit of caring for the community. They have taken a lot of steps to help by connecting us up with people that are in the process of making these move forward into a real gift that can help.”
In the meantime, WorthPoint sponsored a “Cool Kids” art contest. Kids visiting the WorthPoint booth at the American Presidential Experience in Denver during the Democratic National Convention were asked to draw, paint, or color a thank you to the Secret Santa for their generous contribution. Later, all the artwork was judged with prizes for the winner.
All of the coins were to be auctioned off Oct. 24, 2008 to raise money for Salvation Army programs for the coming year. “We’ll start off next Christmas with a pot of money with what was given [this year],” Major Hogan says.
The Salvation Army, as it is known now, started and continues on an unconventional approach to spreading hope among the destitute, the poor, the needy and others on the margins of society. Instead of churches and pulpits, they have help centers and gather contributions through each Christmas season with bell ringers and the well-known red kettles. Begun in 1852 by William Booth in England, it was first known as the Christian Mission. By 1878, with nearly 1,000 volunteers, his movement was described as a volunteer army. Instead, Booth changed it to Salvation Army, with soldiers of Christ, known as Salvationists. The Salvation Army now operates its international headquarters in London, England where it all began.
So, to the Secret Santa, thank you. You know who you are and in our hearts we know you are one of us. Merry Christmas to you, and to all a good night.
NOTE: An auction was held in late 2008 by Freeman’s Auction Company and the six gold coins were auctioned off for a total of $4,700 or about $783 each, well within the range of estimate of $750 to $800 each.
Watch a video about the gifts of gold to the Salvation Army here.
Tom Carrier is a general Worthologist, with an expertise in a wide variety of subjects.
WorthPoint: Get the Most from Your Antiques & Collectibles.