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15 posts in this topic



This will be as brief as my understanding, basically from the Heritage Archives and Breen's book The Complete Encyclopedia ...


I'm not familiar enough with the gold literature, but apparently Kagin wrote a book specifically on Territorial Gold in the 1980's. I've never seen it. Hopefully, I'll get a gander soon enough.


In fact, it seems that some feel this particular issue shouldn't be called Territorial Gold, rather, since it was sanctioned by the U.S. Mint...there being no branches in San Fransisco at the time, that this be classified as official U.S. coinage.


What essentially happened is that the gold being mined during the Gold Rush, was minted into coins by private mints. Assays were done on these coins, and a lot of them fell short of what the coins claimed to be, and they went under.


In 1851 the U.S. Assay office began coinage operations utilizing the Moffat facility, but it was limited to $50 pieces...those beautiful, and expensive in any grade, Octagonal wonders that we've all come to know. I believe these were 2.5 oz of gold.


I'll link this photo from Heritage Archives:





You can see the background, attributed to Humbert, who was a clock maker. Well, I don't know exactly what he was, but if you look at pocketwatch cases from that era, they often had what was called 'engine turned' carvings on the case...quite beautiful...




you can see the similarity....




Commerce, however, demanded smaller denominations...after all, $50 in 1851, was a heck of a lot of money (about $1,360.00 relative to today's purchasing power). It's a complicated story about the Mint saying OK to $10's and $20's and then saying no, and then saying yes, such that the dies prepared for them in 1851 had to be overdated into 1852, and this is why you've got the 1851/2 $10's and $20's.


After that, all was 'OK' in the barn and 1852 $50's, $20's and $10's were produced. In 1853 it was just $10's and $20's and at this time, raised to 0.9 fineness, a year before the San Francisco Mint opened.


I believe that Moffat and Co was reconfigured or something, into, Curtis, Perry & Ward (1852-1853) prior to the Branch Mint opening.


From the Heritage Archives.. and yes, I know it's a great reference to view coins, but not reliable info...certainly not...they do mention that by quantifying the rarity ratings of Donald Kagin, for all of the various issues combined, approximately 500 $50 pieces survive, 800 $20 pieces, and just 200 $10 pieces.


Of course, if you look at the PCGS/NGC populations combined, the numbers don't reflect this, however, we all know that resubmissions are included in these numbers...which makes them entirely unreliable. Particularly when you can double, or even triple the value of one of these coins, with a 2 grade point increase for example.


I'm sure there are collectors on this board who know a hell of a lot more than the dittly squat that I do, about these coins. And Yes, yes, I know...read the book, before buying the coin...but after looking at these for years and years and years, and finally seeing one that really hit me...I simply had to buy it.


Theone I purchased is dated 1852. It's attribution is Kagin 12a (2). I believe the K-12, which is a high R.7, and an extremely rare variant of the 1852 U.S. Assay Office ten dollar gold piece, is attributed by the O in OFFICE being under the I of UNITED. Kagin's definition for "High R.7" is four to six pieces.


I'll put up a photo of a K-12 auctioned off at heritage so you can see the reverse:




Now, we had a discussion on another post, about rarity, and I would say that the K-12 is a rare coin. The 12a, which has the "O" centered under the "N" in "UNITED" is only an R-2, and the one I have to show you here, the 12a(2), where the reverse, due to die wear, has indistinct dentils or 'beads' (and thus called the 'faint beads subvariety of the 12-a', is only an R5. In either case, I wouldn't consider these rare, just scarce.


I hope you enjoy the photo (from Doug Winter) 1/2 as much as I enjoy the coin...




The die cracks are actually quite lovely, and I don't believe gold like this has been studied and attributed anything like Overton did with Bust Halves, but I'll try to get some high mag photos of these cracks and addend this post as soon as I can.

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Great thread Mke.


I appreciate the effort going into this and I sure did learn quite a few new things here. Thanks again Mike for another great one.

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Excellent and informative post Mike and beautiful coins. Those reverse designs are something else. Your coin is exceptional in my book.



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great informative thread mike thumbsup2.gif


and really cool us assay office territorial gold coin cloud9.gif


with wonderful skin and coloration, exceptional eye appeal and not one of those processed dipped out canary yellow pieces of territorial gold


territorials were ment to circulate and they did!! in general any territorial gold that is original and unc. is really rare and desirable,,,,,,,,,,,,,, as most all are either circulated vf-au to damaged, repaired, cleaned, played with and just plain problematic


a really cool engine turned design used to deter counterfeiting.


love the eagle thumbsup2.gif


my understanding is that those large 50 dollar gold pieces which weighed 2.5 troy ounces and called slugs was because outside of the saloons and gamboling halls and lawlessness of these gold boom towns someone would put one of these large heavy gold coins in a sock and "clock" someone in the head and then releave them of their property 893whatthe.gif

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One of the reasons I love these boards, constant learning. Thanks Mike very interesting read!!! 893applaud-thumb.gif

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