Buckhead resident Bob Harwell’s golden touch is on display as part of a new exhibition in the Hargrett Galleries of the Richard B. Russell Special Collections Library at the University of Georgia in Athens.

The exhibition, “Gold Digging in Georgia: America’s First Gold Rush,” highlights the history of north Georgia gold mining from the 1820s to the Civil War. It had its grand opening July 13 (with a soft opening June 5) and features photos, historical documents, artifacts and more.

A key part of the exhibition is a complete set of gold coins produced at the Dahlonega Mint prior to the Civil War. The set was accumulated by Harwell, president of Hancock & Harwell Rare Coin and Precious Metal Co. in Buckhead. Harwell is one of the world’s leading experts on Dahlonega gold coins. To date Hancock & Harwell has accumulated over 20 sets of Dahlonega coins for clients since beginning business in the 1970s.

The set on display in Athens was accumulated over a six-year period from across the United States for Atlanta collector John McMullan. McMullan donated his set of Dahlonega coins – called the Reed Creek Collection – to the university for its permanent collection. The set is valued at nearly $1 million. There are 62 coins in the collection on display.

“Coins from the Dahlonega Mint are a unique and lasting relic of an important part of Georgia history,” Harwell said in a news release. “Dahlonega predates the California Gold Rush and spawned the first industrialization of North Georgia.”

Harwell’s interest in Dahlonega gold coins dates to the 1970s when he and his late partner, Jack Hancock, assembled their first set for clients. One of Harwell’s most famous sets of Dahlonega coins was the Duke’s Creek Collection, a complete set of uncirculated Dahlonega gold.

In addition to the set on display at UGA, there are sets on public display at the Dahlonega Gold Museum in Dahlonega and at the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta.

The exhibition at the Richard B. Russell Special Collections Library will run through Dec. 5.

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