Goldberg Coins and Collectibles

Sale 54

Pre-Long Beach Coin and Currency Auction

Territorial Gold Coins
Lot Photo Description Realized
Lot 3563
1851 U.S. Assay Office $50 "slug", 887 THOUS. Reeded edge. NGC graded EF-45. An desirable, if somewhat abraded example with light yellow-golden color partial effacement (through wear and otherwise) of the lower legend on the obverse. Three of the four digits in the date are clear; there is an injury to the surface through the date.

This piece, as a "common" Type with 887 THOUS fineness on the scroll, has the familiar Target reverse. The design appears as a series of concentric circles in the center, surrounded by a series of crossing wavy, concentric circles. These concentric circular lines are known to mechanics as "engine turning,", the design is similar to the web-like engraving in the vignettes on paper money or on watchcases. Pop 11 (PCGS # 10214) .

Gold rush anecdote: Bumper-to-bumper highway congestion isn't just a modern phenomena. Rush hour traffic on the Oregon-California trail during 1849 and well into the 1850s was just as bad --probably worse. The image of a lone wagon on the endless prairie is largely myth; it's more accurate to imagine a moving city. Many reported seeing wagons all the way to the horizon day after day bringing miners or their families to the region to get rich in the California gold fields.

Not every 49er used the Oregon -California Trail. There were other routes to gold country -- one came perilously close to Antarctica! Those who did not want to endure a four month trek across the continent, traveled to California by ship. Trouble was, there was no direct water route to the west coast. So a ship leaving an East Coast city had to travel all the way to the tip of South America -- skirting the edge of the the Antarctic continent -- before heading north to California. It was a difficult trip that sometimes took a complete year.
Estimated Value $20,000 - 25,000.
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Lot 3564
1855 Wass, Molitor & Co. (San Francisco) $50 Gold. NGC graded AU-58. An excellent example for the grade and free from the heavy digs and rim bruses that usually accompany this massive round coin. This historic and nicely preserved AU58 $50 gold piece has rare beauty that comes with fully defined design features plus a strict limitation on surface marks. What's more, the rims are choicer than average for what is often a bunged-about Type, wherein use in circulation tended to damage the soft rim areas. While the octagonal fifties from the Assay Office get much of the news reportage in the American numismatic press, that is only because they are seen ten times more often than a Wass $50 piece.

The firm of Wass, Molitor & Company was comprised of Samuel Wass and Agoston Molitor, who operated their well-respected private mint in the Bay area from 1852. Their first deliveries consisted of five- and ten-dollar gold pieces for local use. They ceased minting when the San Francisco Mint opened in 1854, but resumed with production of the famous $50 denomination round gold coins in 1855. This was at a time when the federal facility was obliged to close from time to time for lack of proper parting acids to refine gold dust with the requisite copper alloy. The fifty dollar Wass, Molitor pieces filled the void at this critical time. Reports are the Wass Molitor coinage had one of the highest intrinsic values of any of the private issues in California. Many were subsequently melted. Pop 2; 8 finer (PCGS # 10363) .

According to Dr. Donald Kagin, "Wass, Molitor & Co. closed down their operation soon after the 1855 issues were distributed, for the 1856-1857 San Francisco Directory lists the assaying firm of Wass (Karoly) Usznay & Co. as operating during 1856 and 1857. Haraszthy replaced Molitor as partner in this firm, as the latter had left California for London in 1856." Dr. Kagin's book "Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States," gives an detailed account of the Territorial issues, including a full description of the Wass, Molitor company and its gold coins.
Estimated Value $50,000 - 55,000.
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