California pioneer gold

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Moffat & Co.

Heritage sale 1209, lot 3556
Moffat 1850 5 dollars rev H1209-3556.jpg

The first specimen was lot 3556 in Heritage sale 1209 (Long Beach, September 2014), where it sold for $4,993.75. The catalog description[1] noted, "1850 $5 Moffat & Co. Five Dollar XF45 PCGS. K-7, R.4. Small eagle variety with the leaf trio centered under S in S.M.V. and the berry over FI in FIVE. This is an important Gold Rush souvenir from the esteemed firm of Moffat & Co. The firm produced five and ten dollar gold coins 1849 and 1850 that traded at full face value, an unusual occurrence for territorial gold. In 1851, coinage production ended when Moffat & Co. received a federal contract to operate a U.S. Assay Office. The attractive surfaces feature reddish-gold color and pleasing detail. Listed on page 384 of the 2015 Guide Book. From The Valley View Life Collection, Part Two. (PCGS# 10243)."

Wass, Molitor & Co.

Heritage sale 1209, lot 3563
Moffat 1852 10 dollars rev H1209-3563.jpg

The second specimen was lot 3563 in Heritage sale 1209 (Long Beach, September 2014), where it sold for $25,850. The catalog description[1] noted, "1852 $10 Wass Molitor Ten Dollar, Small Head AU50 NGC. K-3, R.6. The 'plugged obverse' die variety. According to Kagin (1981): ('presumably an 1851 date was on the die and the numeral 1 was drilled out and replaced with a 2.)' The Guide Book refers to this variety as a 'Small Head' type, which Kagin dislikes, preferring to refer to it as 'Long Neck/RE/Large Close Date'. It is similar to the K-2 variety, but the bust is larger and the tip is rounded and over the 1 in the date. This piece is typically soft over the central design elements (from die lapping or polishing), with high-point wear from circulation that further reduces the available detail. All of the major motifs remain evident, however, even if the higher points of the design are somewhat faint. There are a number of trivial nicks and abrasions on each side, indicating that this coin actually served, however briefly, in the channels of commerce; probably in the San Francisco area. A rare and highly desirable item that should be of great interest to the Territorial Gold specialist. Census: 2 in 50, 3 finer (7/14). (PCGS# 10345)."

Heritage sale 1208, lot 5785
Wass Molitor 1855 50 dollars rev H1208-5785.jpg
The third specimen was lot 5785 in Heritage sale 1208 (Chicago, August 2014), where it sold for $49,937.50. The catalog description[1] noted,

"1855 $50 Wass Molitor Fifty Dollar XF45 NGC. K-9, R.5. Famous as the only round fifty-dollar California gold piece, the private issue Wass, Molitor fifty was highly popular not only in California commerce but at points East, too. The public preferred the round, reeded edge format over the cumbersome octagonal gold slugs issued by the U.S. Assay Office. Wass, Molitor earned a solid reputation for its private gold issues through the efforts of founding partners Samuel C. Wass and Agoston P. Molitor. The fledgling San Francisco Mint could not produce enough gold coin due to shortages of parting acids and other production issues, making the Wass, Molitor coinage indispensable in 1855. Bankers petitioned Wass, Molitor in March, 1855 when on-and-off Mint closings throughout 1854 and 1855 made the shortage of gold coin intolerable. Both Moffat & Co. and Wass, Molitor & Co. provided much-needed gold coinage in ten dollar and twenty dollar denominations, but Wass, Molitor was the only private firm issuing a fifty dollar gold piece for circulation at that time. The high face value made the large coins a preferred unit of currency for large transactions and bank transfers, and the coins were accepted readily in both local and foreign trade.

Wass, Molitor ceased operations after 1855 due to the exit of the founding partners and some questionable activities by their replacements. Moreover, their services were no longer needed when the San Francisco Mint was able to resume normal operations after the 1855 interruptions.

The present coin is an excellent example of the Wass, Molitor fifty. A full 1 5/8" (4.2 cm) in diameter, these large, heavy coins always received their share of abrasions and marks in circulation, but this example is far less bagmarked and abraded than most of its grade. The most noticeable mark is a small dig beneath 50 on the reverse. Attractive, medium-gold surfaces show olive-gold overtones and a bit of orange at the rims. Moderate wear softens the high points of the motifs. An important Territorial gold issue and immensely popular with collectors, this type is listed on page 394 of the 2015 Guide Book. From The Valley View Life Collection. (PCGS# 10363)"

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