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A Living Ghost Town

A Living Ghost Town By Vernon Cross

You could call the still active mining town of Wiseman Alaska a living ghost town. The sun-bleached graying logs of its century old log cabins are a stark contrast to the shiny new pickups parked in front of many of them... home to the miners and their families still actively mining there today. I had traveled this far north to detect in the old mining towns of Coldfoot and Wiseman, Alaska.

Wiseman is 80 miles above the arctic circle. The sun doesn't really set during the peak summer months this far north so there was ample time to detect. I unearthed this 100+ year old token With my Whites XLT detector in a flood area that had deposited about 5 inches of silt and small gravel over a miners yard several years ago. The token was 8 inches deep and I first I thought I had recovered a nickel until I cleaned it off in a near by puddle.

The old token was originally from a bar/cigar emporium in Skagway Alaska called the "Monogram" during the great Klondike gold rush of 1898. Skagway was the Alaska port of call for the stampeders heading for the Canadian Klondike goldfields and beyond from ships out of Seattle. The infamous con man Soapy Smith and his band of cut-throats rode rein over the town of Skagway, preying on the incoming and outgoing sea of humanity passing through. If "Soapy" couldn't get their money through con games, his cut throats would "take 'em out back to see the eagle", where they would be beaten and robbed. This went on for quite some time, until an ex-lawman named Frank Reid faced Soapy Smith in a shoot-out. Reid's shot sent the bullet through Soapy's heart, killing him instantly. However, not before Soapy managed to get off a shot with a rifle that hit Reid in the groin; Reid died three weeks later from complications of that gunshot.

This old token is special to me because of the history of that Alaska town, and is rated a rarity of R7, meaning there's only approx. 250 of them known to exist.... according to Mark Parker, of W & E Treasures magazine. It's value is $145+. Apparently a miner that was in Skagway brought this coin to Cold Foot/Wiseman area around the turn of the century, where he either lost it or chucked it. The gold with the photo is some I had found and added for a little artistic flair, representing the Gold Rush.

The denomination of six and one quarter cents would be one half of a "bit'. A "bit" being 12.5 cents. "That'll be two bits for the drink and the cigar mister.... and next time, try and hit the spittoon will ya?

Vernon (Alaska)

Vernon Cross is a painter of nature and it's situations. He is a longtime prospector and expert detectorist. His work can be seen here: Vern Cross...Alaska Mining Artist


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