Goldberg Coins and Collectibles

Sale 48

Lot 1729

1851 U.S. Assay Office $50 "slug", 880 THOUS. Reeded edge. NGC graded AU-55. Some light rose color tone restes within the protected devices. A few minor edge knocks. You have the privilege of bidding on a beautiful historic Territorial gold example with luster that radiates from the around the devices of both obverse and reverse all the way to the peripheries. Not only is it warm golden orange and alluring, but it also is a pretty well struck example. The wings, shield and tail detail on the eagle are nearly completely defined. Pop 9; 31 finer (PCGS # 10211) .

The $50 ingots or "slugs" or "Californians" did pass as money; for most of 1851-53 they were the principal accepted currency in California. Earlier dies gave the issuer's name as AUGUSTUS HUMBERT U.S. ASSAYER OF GOLD; later ones as UNITED STATES ASSAY OFFICE OF GOLD, but it was the same provisional branch mint, located at first on Montgomery St. between Commercial and Clay, later at 608-10 Commercial St. Humbert arrived in San Francisco on Jan. 30, 1851, bringing master dies or hubs, and on January 31 he struck his first octagonal ingots. Quantity issue began Feb. 14. Anticipating Humbert's arrival, Collector of Customs T. Butler King was authorized by President Millard Fillmore, December 2, 1850, to receive any or all issues of the new Assay Office in payment of tariffs: a de facto recognition that they passed as federal money, effective from the first day of issue.

Opposition to the new provisional branch mint arose from the same people who had boycotted the former State Assay Office ingots. Bankers could no longer buy gold dust for $6 to $8 per ounce while Humbert's federal operation paid miners $16 per ounce, less 2.75% manufacturing charges; nor could they sell gold dust to private coiners at high profits.

Worse for the Assay Office's competitors, nearly all private gold coins vanished, most being melted for recoinage into Humbert $50s. This created a coin shortage.
Estimated Value $35,000 - 40,000.

Realized $36,800

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