Except otherwise stated, all results below include the premium.
See also : Coin Gold coins Dollars and eagles
Chronology : 1850-1859 1860-1869
2013 SOLD for $ 1.06M by Heritage
The U.S. government has the permanent desire to control the wealth. At the end of 1850 Augustus Humbert, a manufacturer of watch cases in New York, is promoted to the official position of U.S. Assayer. In 1851 the newly created U.S. Assay Office in San Francisco is headed by Moffat with Humbert as the assayer.
Humbert is the central figure of this operation, which will be dissolved in 1853 to create the San Francisco Mint. Gold coins of $ 50, 20 and 10 are issued.
On September 13, 2008, Bowers & Merena sold for $ 460K a spectacular octagonal $ 50 coin madein 1851. It is the best known regular coin of Humbert type, graded MS65 by NGC.
Test pieces not intended for circulation (pattern coins) were also produced. Made in 1852, an almost perfect specimen graded MS68 by NGC was sold for $ 1.06M by Heritage on April 25, 2013, lot 4058. This $ 10 coin is attributed to Humbert by a large inscription on the reverse.
After this period in government service, Augustus Humbert continued until 1860 as a partner of Kellogg. In 1857, the sinking of the SS Central America will immerse a Kellogg & Humbert ingot weighing 80 pounds which was sold for $ 8M in a private sale in 2001.
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
2011 SOLD for $ 1.32M by Heritage
Each issue is preceded by proof coins that have every quality to charm the numismatists : struck with new dies, they offer the same graphic quality as the master model. Many of them are uncirculated. The risk that a model becomes commonplace in the market by the discovery of a shipwreck treasure only applies to serial production. Specialists identify the proof coins by their slightly different texture.
The San Francisco mint was established in 1854 following the success of the Gold Rush in California. In the same year appears throughout the USA a new gold coin with the Indian Princess figure at a value of $ 3.
On August 12, 2011, Heritage sold at lot 7487 for $ 1.32M the only recorded proof specimen of the $ 3 1855-S proof coin, in excellent condition, graded PR64 by NGC. The S struck on the reverse identifies the mint of San Francisco. The coin is shown in the press release of the auction house and in the very interesting article shared by CoinWeek.
In the same 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 from the Wreck of the SS Central America
2012 SOLD for $ 900K by Stack's Bowers
Fortunately gold, selected since antiquity for its chemical stability, is resistant to sea water. The sinking of the SS Central America in 1857 served as a time capsule of the ingot industry in the years that followed the gold rush of California.
The ship was carrying more than 13 metric tons of gold ingots and coins. This trip was so important that her disaster generated a gold shortage panic in New York. The wreck was located in 1987 off the coast of Virginia. The discovery team got in 1996 the right to operate 92% of the gold.
Back now to the ingots, which have been listed and studied by Q. David Bowers.
The ingots embedded in the Central America had been collected from five "assayers", the word used at the time for these manufacturers in charge of both the production and the guarantee of fineness.
Contrary to what one might imagine today, the ingot weight was not standardized. There are therefore pieces of any size. As early as 2001, a huge ingot was sold for $ 8M in private sale. Weighing just over 36 Kg, its marked value is $ 17,433.57.
An ingot was sold for $ 900K by Stack's Bowers on August 9, 2012. This large piece, 17.6 x 6.5 x 2.5 cm weighing 174.04 ounces (4.933 Kg) has a face value of $ 3389.06. Its fineness, graded .942 at the time, is exceptional. It is the only piece in the wreck which is attributed to the office of Marysville CA of Harris, Marchand & Co., their other office in Sacramento being largely represented.
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 or AU58 by PCGS was sold for $ 2.3M by Heritage on April 30, 2009, lot 2567.
2014 SOLD for $ 1.88M by Stack's Bowers
Novodel of the 1802 Dollar
2008 SOLD for $ 920K by Heritage
In 1876 a dealer exhibits four proof coins respectively marked 1801, 1802, 1803 and 1804, in mint condition, similar but not fully correlated with the original coinage. The 1804 specimen was from the so-called Class III, regarded as regular because it was made in an official mint.
The novodels dated 1801, 1802 and 1803 have not delivered their mystery. We do not know who created them, when or why, but they are not counterfeits. Were they made for presentation, and if so for whom? Are they simply some test coins performed during the development of new variants, or for testing some equipment?
Four specimens are known of the 1802 $ 1 silver novodel. They all have an auction history.
The highest price went to a coin graded PR65 Cameo, for $ 920K by Heritage on April 17, 2008, lot 2088. Another coin in the same grade, certified by PCGS, was sold for $ 850K by Heritage on August 3, 2012, lot 5181.
The other two coins are graded PR64 by PCGS. One of them was sold for $ 410K by Heritage on October 18, 2012, lot 4594, and the other one for $ 350K by Stack's Bowers on March 31, 2017, lot 5042.
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