Except otherwise stated, all results include the premium.
See also : Coin Gold coins Dollars and eagles Silver dollar
Chronology : 1860-1869
1854-S Half Eagle
2021 SOLD for $ 2.4M by Heritage
The San Francisco Branch Mint opens on April 3, 1854 to receive gold. The first deposit is made by The Adams Express Company, consisting of 50 ounces of gold recorded for $ 1,311.92, equivalent to the price of 262 half eagles, on April 11.
The Adams Express was a conveyor founded in Boston in 1840. Its San Francisco office, established in 1849, also traded in gold dust. Such deposit of 50 ounces is very small for such a powerful company, competing with the American Express.
Two weeks later at the mint, the staff finally manage to control the furnaces. From April 18 to 20, the first batches of $ 20, $ 10, $ 5 and $ 2.5 are produced with respective quantities of 178, 260, 268 and 246 which are sufficient to demonstrate the feasibility.
The premises are tiny and the machines work badly. The setting difficulties accumulate, aggravated by the sinking of the ship which was bringing the nitric acid necessary to purify the gold. The continuation of the production is limited to the double eagle, the eagle and the dollar, more user friendly than the fractional denominations. There will be no other 1854-S half and quarter eagles.
The details of the financial transactions between Adams and the Branch Mint are not known but it was not unusual to pay the depositors with coins made with their own gold. On April 29, the Mountain Democrat, an El Dorado County newspaper, narrated that an agent of Adams displayed several examples of half eagles recently made in San Francisco. The other denominations are not referred.
If we assume that Adams received the whole production batch of half eagles, we see it as a clever promotional operation, including both a feedback to miners and a compliance with the wishes addressed by former President Fillmore. After this operation, the coins were no longer useful to Adams. Most have probably been melted.
We will not see an 1854-S half eagle again before the 1910s, with a first public sale in 1932. A total of four units appeared, one of which was irretrievably lost in a burglary in 1967. Please watch the video shared by NGC comparing the four specimens to announce their guarantee of authenticity for the fourth that had surfaced in April 2018. This 1854-S half eagle was graded XF-45 by NGC which also verified that it cannot be the stolen coin.
This coin graded XF45 was sold twice by Heritage, for $ 2.16M on August 16, 2018, lot 5248, and for $ 2.4M on August 18, 2021, lot 3433. In the meantime PCGS confirmed its grade and authenticity.
#HERITAGELIVE "Discovery of a Lifetime": This 1854-S Liberty Half Eagle was recently discovered and is but one of only four known examples. This handful of history just sold for $2.4 million, setting a new #worldrecord for this coin! https://t.co/KUR7ohWILA#HeritageAuctions pic.twitter.com/ZAuO18lIuF— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) August 19, 2021
2020 SOLD for $ 1.92M by Stack's Bowers
Rarity makes the difference. About eleven 1854-S quarter eagles survive. Compared to the production figure of 246 pieces, the proportion seems normal for a release for circulation.
The half eagle, graded AU58+ by PCGS, was sold for $ 1.92M, lot 7335. The quarter eagle, graded AU50 by PCGS, was sold for $ 384K, lot 7325.
1855-S $ 3 Proof
2023 SOLD for $ 2.16M by Heritage
Very few proof coins in gold were struck at the beginning of the new mint. Only one special 1854-S double eagle proof was minted, for inclusion in the Philadelphia mint cabinet. It is kept at the Smithsonian. Some experts downgrade it as a presentation strike with a perfect surface as it does not display the color of a proof of that time.
Only one example of the $ 3 1855-S proof coin is known. It was possibly struck as a unique specimen to accompany the first $ 3 business batch of the new mint that used the same dies for its 6,600 units.
This coin was treasured in a private collection until it surfaced at auction in 1984. It is graded PR64 Cameo by NGC and by PCGS. It was sold by Heritage for $ 1.32M on August 12, 2011, lot 7487, and for $ 2.16M on February 9, 2023, lot 3671.
In the same 2011 sale, two other 1855-S proof coins were listed, also highly rare and equally superb but smaller (and not in gold) : 50 and 25 cents. Each of them was sold for $ 276K.
1857 Ingot by Justh and Hunter
2022 SOLD for $ 2.16M by Heritage
The gold is carried by boat to New York via Panama. In September 1857 the sinking of the SS Central America, caught in a hurricane off the coast of South Carolina with a load of more than 13 metric tons of gold ingots and coins, generates a catastrophic gold shortage.
Fortunately gold, selected since antiquity for its chemical stability, is resistant to sea water.
That trip was so important that her failure generated a gold shortage panic in New York. The wreck was located in 1987.
The assayers were working in discretion and their companies were often short-lived. The exploration of the wreck brought unprecedented information about their industry.
Three assayers dominate the treasure of the SS Central America : Kellogg & Humbert, Harris, Marchand and Justh & Hunter. Also known for his creations of coins, Augustus Humbert had previously been involved in the creation of the official administration, the US Assay Office of San Francisco.
The largest ingot recovered from the SS Central America is the 80 pound Eureka by Kellogg and Humbert, weighing 933.94 ounces valued at $ 17,433.57. It was sold for $ 8M in private sale in 2001.
In addition to weight, purity is an essential feature that demonstrates the expertise of the assayer. An ingot valued at $ 3,389.06 by Harris, Marchand from a weight of 174.04 ounces and an exceptional purity of .942 was sold for $ 900K by Stack's Bowers on August 9, 2012.
The operation of the third assayer, Justh and Hunter, was short lived, from 1855 to 1858. With a very limited prior experience in metallurgy, they had succeeded in obtaining industrially one of the best purities by importing a Parisian process with hot gas.
On January 5, 2017, Heritage listed five ingots recovered from the SS Central America. An ingot of 327.97 ounces and fineness .909 valued at $ 6162.78 by Justh and Hunter was sold for $ 560K, lot 6146. By the same assayer, an ingot of 179.50 ounces .886 fine of unusual proportions 124 x 51 x 47 mm retains significant iron incrustations from the rusted hull of the wreck. It was sold for $ 376K, lot 6145.
On January 14, 2022, Heritage sold for $ 2.16M the largest Justh and Hunter gold brick retrieved from the wreck, lot 4542. Its characteristics are 866.19 ounces, .892 fineness, poured in San Francisco into a 87 x 283 mm mould and valued by the assayer at $ 15,971.93. The firm had also a subsidiary assay office at Marysville, nearer to the gold fields.
#HERITAGELIVE: Justh & Hunter Gold #Ingot, 866.19 Ounces. THE Largest S.S. Central America Ingot Ever Offered at Auction just brought in a large $2,160,000 during our FUN #USCoins Signature® Event!https://t.co/8gpfvok2cb#numismatics pic.twitter.com/JL5nCnZdB3— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) January 15, 2022
2022 SOLD for $ 1.32M by Heritage
No. 9521 is the largest ingot from that branch that was recovered from the SS Central America wreck. Weighing 464.65 ounces, it has a beautiful .912 fineness with a bright yellow gold surface and a face value of $8759.90. It is measuring 72 x 216 mm and 51 mm thick.
It was sold for $ 1.32M by Heritage on May 5, 2022, lot 4124.
Harris, Marchand also had an assay office in that location.
1858-1859 Class III Restrike of the 1804 Silver Dollar
2009 SOLD for $ 2.3M by Heritage
The 1804 dollar is the last model made before the suspension of production of the silver dollar which will last until 1836. The 19,570 coins declared in the annual report for 1804 have always remained untraceable, creating fabulous myths like the disappearance of the entire production in a shipwreck. The tools existed nevertheless at the factory and had been kept.
The production of silver dollars had already been low in 1803, allowing an extension of the use of the dies. The one dollar coins announced in 1804 in the annual report were certainly struck with dies from previous years, perhaps due to a too late availability of the dies on the date of 1804 which will remain unused until the Class I.
In 1834 the government requests two specimens of each of the denominations of US coinage in the current year or the last year of production as applicable, to constitute inexpensive diplomatic gifts for the king of Siam and the sultan of Muscat. The factory does not have an 1804 dollar in stock. It is easy to recreate a few copies : this is the Class I, of which eight units are known, probably representing the entire production.
One of these copies is used in 1842 to illustrate a manual published by two employees of the Mint, Eckfeldt and DuBois. Collectors are going crazy. The factory accepts an exchange with one of them in 1843, recovering the unique example from a bygone gold coin project of 1785 with the inscription Immune Columbia.
The Class II restrike is created at the factory in 1858. It was a poor quality unauthorized operation intended to make profit from the greed of collectors. The Mint requests to recover them. Three are destroyed and one is kept as a specimen at the factory. No other Class II is known. The only surviving piece was struck on a Swiss thaler from 1857, with a plain edge.
The idea of producing restrikes goes up to the highest level of the hierarchy. In 1859 the Mint director JR Snowden tries in vain to obtain an authorization from the Treasury for such operations.
The production of Class III at the Philadelphia factory is indisputable, probably from 1858 or 1859. The blundering lettering will be done late on the previously struck pieces, which could have been earlier Class II made on blank planchets and remaining at the factory. The first Class III surfaced in 1876, tending to prove that the illicit uses of this variant had been successfully blocked until that date.
Four Class III have been artificially worn by rubbing in a pocket to make it look like authentic coins made in 1804. The batch was however made with a proof finish which did not exist before 1817.
A Class III graded PR58 by PCGS was sold for $ 2.3M by Heritage on April 30, 2009, lot 2567.
2014 SOLD for $ 1.88M by Stack's Bowers
1861 Paquet Double Eagle
2021 SOLD for $ 7.2M by Heritage
The San Francisco Paquet is a well documented regular issue of 19,250 coins. The current survivors have been circulated and no mint state specimen is known. On the opposite the Philadelphia Paquet is one of the rarest numismatic varieties with only two examples known, both in mint state, respectively graded MS67 and MS61 by PCGS.
The story begins in 1859 with a concern about an excessive cracking of reverse dies during striking. In Philadelphia the assistant engraver Anthony Paquet manages to propose some modifications which are accepted for the 1861 strike, although the impact on the original die problem is questionable. Concerned about readability, he improved the letters and reduced the edges, thus increasing the effective area of the engraved figure.
Sets of dies including that reverse are shipped to the subsidiary mints in San Francisco and New Orleans in November and December 1860. They are accompanied by an instruction stating that the new reverse die "is presenting a larger face for the device without changing the diameter of the piece. They will require a slight change in the milling to suit the border".
When it comes to start the new millesime in Philadelphia, it appears that the striking difficulty is bigger than expected. On January 5 the Mint Director stops the use of the Paquet reverse and sends instructions to do the same at the subsidiaries. The mail forwarded to San Francisco by the Pony Express arrived too late, when the first releases had been made. Another issue was that the new coins did not stack properly. No coin had been released from Philadelphia where the production with the Paquet reverse was totally melted with no survivor known.
The two Philadelphia coins have a rearrangement of the reverse design clearly intended to deal with the technical issue. Indeed their strike is perfect, but it was certainly obtained with the higher pressure from a medal press. This operation is not documented at the Mint. It is now believed that they were pattern coins prepared for saving the design for the next year.
The coin graded MS67 was sold for $ 7.2M by Heritage on August 18, 2021, lot 3471.
Interestingly the difference between the basic and Paquet designs did not disturb the users. The San Francisco Paquet coins were not differentiated until the 1930s while the two Philadelphia coins were first sold at auction in 1865 and 1875 respectively.
The 1861 Paquet Reverse double eagle is one of the rarest coins in American #numismatics, and this example stands at the absolute pinnacle of rarity and exquisite condition.— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) August 11, 2021
August 18 - 22 ANA WFOM US Coins Signature Event, No. 1333 https://t.co/MmkBNpnJan#HeritageAuctions pic.twitter.com/sQ6M1NKnYH
2014 SOLD for $ 1.65 M$ by Heritage
1861 Proof Double Eagle
2022 SOLD for $ 1.8M by Heritage
1861 is also one of the rarest proof mintage of the double eagle, with a population of 66 released in a single batch on April 5. The outbreak of the Civil War one week later suspended the delivery. Most of them were melted in 1862.
Five examples are surviving in proof condition. The finest had been graded PR67 Ultra Cameo by NGC. Now graded PR66 Deep Cameo by PCGS, this very beautiful gold coin was sold for $ 1.8M by Heritage on January 13, 2022, lot 3806.
A 1858 $ 10 proof eagle graded PR64 Ultra Cameo by NGC was sold for $ 480K by Heritage on April 23, 2020, lot 3823.
#HERITAGELIVE 1861 Double Eagle, PR66 Deep Cameo One of the Rarest Dates in the Series - only five examples traced sold for $1,800,000 in tonight's session of the FUN US Coins Signature® Auction! https://t.co/Fs8lkv2Za9 pic.twitter.com/Qgkhr6tzXd— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) January 14, 2022