Goldberg Coins and Collectibles

Sale 60

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Lot 2861

1844-C $5 Liberty. NGC graded AU-55. Well struck and nicely toned on both sides. 23,631 pieces struck. Light greenish yellow gold with plenty of brilliance and luster still evident around the devices. Well struck for the date, essentially sharp in nearly all areas. An rarity in all grades, and easily one of the more difficult ones to find in choice condition. As David Akers noted regarding this date and mint: "Specimens in AU or Uncirculated are almost unobtainable."

On the reverse, a small die crack runs from the rim at 10:00 to the tip of the eagle's wing. Another crack, this more prominent, begins at the rim over the first A in AMERICA, horizontally crossing the field and the eagle's wing, ending at a central point on the eagle's neck. Pop 11; 12 finer, 6 in 58, 1 in 60, 2 in 61, 1 in 62, 2 in 63 (PCGS # 8220) .

Story of the Mint fire: According to Breen's Encyclopedia, "a burglar burned down the mint" at Charlotte on July 27, 1844. Author Clair Birdsall gives a more in-depth accounting of the events of that July day in his book titled The United States Branch Mint at Charlotte, North Carolina: Its History and Coinage. An article appeared in the August 1, 1844 edition of the Charlotte Journal, describing the events of the day in some detail. It seems the fire was first discovered in the early morning hours of Saturday, July 27. Mint Superintendent Dr. Green W. Caldwell had not spent Friday, July 26, in his quarters at the mint (as was his custom), but had instead gone to the mountains of Lincoln County for health reasons. His stand-in for the day, unnamed in the article (later determined to be one Mr. Todd), had not stayed at the mint that day either. The fire was discovered early Saturday in the west wing of the mint, near the room housing the coinage presses. According to the article, it was a small fire when first discovered, perhaps just eight-feet square or so, and could easily have been squelched by use of water reservoirs that were in place on the roof of the mint. For some unknown reason, the fire was allowed to burn, with the building "left to the mercy of the flames," as the article noted. The building was nearly completely destroyed, along with most of the machinery and other equipment contained therein. The mint register, bullion, and coins were rescued, however, and spent some time at the Branch Bank of the State of North Carolina in Charlotte. Superintendent Caldwell reportedly lost all his private papers and a goodly sum of money in the blaze.

As for the actual cause of the fire, history is not so clear. There were rumors that a group of college students were seen smoking "segars" on the roof of the mint about 2:00 PM on Friday, July 26, and that a discarded cigar may have been the cause of the conflagration. This was later ruled out as a cause, as workmen sent up to the roof to investigate before the blaze occurred found no smoldering cigar butts. Superintendent Caldwell was convinced that the fire was set on purpose, and intimated that a servant of Burgess S. Gaither, former superintendent of the mint, was to blame for the fire. On August 10, 1844, Calvin, a man slave of Gaither, went to trial for arson. He had been overheard threatening to burn the mint to ashes after his master lost his job there, and so was a primary suspect. Fortunately for Calvin (or unfortunately, as he was a married man), it was proven that he was with his girlfriend at the time of the events at the mint, and he was found innocent of all charges. The judge in the case, Richard M. Pearson, did determine that a trapdoor on the roof of the mint had been left unlatched, and that a person or persons of unknown identity had set the fire in the mint. According to Birdsall: "Superintendent Caldwell accepted the verdict with skepticism and continued to maintain in his correspondence with Mint Director Patterson that his apartment in the mint had been robbed and the fire set to cover up the robbery."
Estimated Value $6,000 - 6,500.

Realized $6,325

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