Imagine the Reaction: Chemistry Department Yields Hidden Treasure

Story posted April 30, 2012


Valuable lessons abound in Bowdoin’s Chemistry Department, but rarely are those pearls of wisdom actually worth their weight in gold. A 24-karat gold bar, likely the subject of scientific experiments long ago, lay inert in the old chemistry stockroom in Cleaveland Hall for decades, and was moved to a new storage area when Druckenmiller opened.

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The gold bar, believed to have been purchased in 1930 for less than $84, is now worth more than $6,600.

Rene Bernier, lab instructor, Science Center Manager and, of late, gold guardian, recently informed faculty that given the limited scientific use for the bar, he was delivering it to the Treasurer’s office for safekeeping.

The "bar," whose dimensions more closely resemble those of a brass nameplate on an office door, weighs just over four ounces. The College recently had the bar analyzed to verify its worth and sold it to a refinery for $6,639.

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Lab instructor Rene Bernier hands the gold bar to Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration & Treasure Katy Longley for safekeeping.

"If purchased in 1930, which is my best guess, and at 1930 prices — $20.65 an ounce — that gold bar cost the college $83.07," says Bernier. "Pretty good return on the investment."

"We’re grateful to Rene for stepping forward with this hidden treasure," says S. Catherine Longley, Bowdoin’s Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration & Treasurer, adding that the proceeds from the sale will be used to help support professional development for lab instructors.

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