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Category: Territorial Gold

Previously Unknown Specimen of 1855 $50 Kellogg & Co. Fifty Dollar available at Heritage Boston ANA Coin Auction

In the words of B. Max Mehl, the Kellogg & Co. fifty dollar gold pieces are “the most beautiful of all Pioneer gold coins and one of the rarest.” While Heritage has handled Kellogg fifties on several occasions in the past, we take particular pleasure in offering this specimen, which seems to match none of the previously known examples of this extraordinary issue. A “new” Kellogg fifty is a numismatic landmark and an unparalleled opportunity for the Territorial gold collector.

For more than a century, numismatists have puzzled over the purpose of the Kellogg fifties and exactly how many were struck. All known specimens were minted in proof format, suggesting they may have served as presentation pieces for bankers and politicians: They were struck when the firm was considering a large business strike mintage to compete with the fifty dollar pieces of their competitors, Wass, Molitor and Company. The “regular-issue” coins never materialized, but the proof production has delighted and puzzled collectors since the coins appeared.

One disputed question about the Kellogg proof fifties has been the number struck. The proprietors of Kellogg & Co., John Glover Kellogg and Augustus Humbert, were partners in 1855. Both of them retained several examples of the Kellogg fifties long after they dissolved their partnership in 1860. Kellogg’s heirs, including his son Karl, remained in possession of three coins many years after Kellogg’s death in 1886. Humbert, who died in 1873, left his collection to his brother, Pierre. When Pierre died in 1901, his heirs sold the collection to Captain Andrew C. Zabriskie. As Henry Chapman relates in the introduction to the Zabriskie Collection (Henry Chapman, 6/1909):

“Capt. Zabriskie some years ago had the good fortune to purchase from his executors the collection of coins left by Mr. Humbert, the California Assayer, and from which collection he derived many of the most remarkable Pioneer Gold Coins, which , added to his collection that had been forming for many years, makes his Pioneer Gold the best ever offered at public sale.”

Later in the sale, Chapman described the Kellogg fifty in lot 341, which realized $1,250, a huge price at the time. To quote his description in part:

“Sharp, beautiful specimen. The finest known, as Capt. Zabriskie had his choice of the six which Mr. Humbert had preserved. So far as I am aware, it is possible about 10 are known, in fact, this is the number it is said was coined.”

Chapman thus reveals the startling fact that Humbert saved at least six specimens of this issue until his death. We can only wonder what Humbert’s purpose was, since $300 was a large sum in 1855, too large to tie up in souvenirs. Whatever his reasons, he deserves the thanks of all Pioneer gold collectors for preserving so many of these wonderful coins. In his catalog of Humbert’s collection, which he sold in 1902, Chapman mentioned one specimen in the collection of J.W. Scott, which would be the 10th coin in his census, after the three kept by Kellogg’s family and the six in Humbert’s estate.

The trouble with Chapman’s roster is this: More than 10 specimens have always been known to numismatists since the coins surfaced. The census of known examples has gone up and down over the years, but most catalogers agree at least 13 pieces were struck, even if fewer examples seemed to be extant at a particular time. With the appearance of the present coin, we have a pictorial record of what seem to be 14 different coins. (more…)

Coin Profile: 1849 Oregon Exchange Company Five Dollar Gold Territorial Coin

The news of the discovery of gold in California reached the Oregon Territory in late July 1848. That news was confirmed in Oregon City, seat of Clackamas County, on August 9 of that year, when the brig Henry docked with gold dust, arriving from San Francisco, and by October more than two-thirds of the men in Oregon had departed to seek treasure in the gold fields of California.

The Oregon Spectator, founded in 1846, one of the first newspapers west of the Mississippi River, was forced to stop publishing in 1848 “because its printer, with 3,000 officers, lawyers, physicians, farmers and mechanics were leaving for the gold fields.” (Kagin, Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States.)

By spring of the following year, gold dust had almost entirely replaced beaver and other fur pelts as the primary medium of exchange, although it traded at a substantial discount to silver coins (when available) and to its value at the Philadelphia Mint. Miners were losing money.

Against this backdrop, the Oregon Exchange Company was formed, with the express purpose of weighing and stamping gold.

Although Oregon was officially declared a territory of the United States on March 3, 1849–rendering any plan to coin gold clearly unconstitutional–several prominent residents determined to proceed with the plan.

PCGS Video:David McCarthy of Kagin’s tells the story of the 1849 $5 Oregon gold piece

The surnames of those residents were Kilborn, Magruder, Taylor, Abernethy, Willson, Rector, (Gill) Campbell, and Smith. Their initials K. M. T. A. W. R. G. S. appear around the rim of the five dollar gold pieces, which also picture a beaver on a log and a laurel wreath. In error, the initials T.O. (rather than O.T., for Oregon Territory) were stamped on the obverse.

The five dollar contains the reverse legend OREGON EXCHANGE COMPANY around the periphery, with 130 G. / NATIVE GOLD. / 5 D. in the center. The initials of two men were omitted from the ten dollar pieces struck later, and the T.O. was corrected to O.T.

The gold coinage was unalloyed with silver or copper, and succeeded in raising the price of gold dust from $12 to $16 as the pieces circulated. Alloy was purposely omitted to ensure that the pieces would be accepted regardless of variances in the purity of gold dust, but their inherent softness caused them to suffer in contact with the harder alloyed gold coinage from California–and their higher intrinsic value caused them to soon be melted. (more…)

Further Revelations Concerning the Controversial “Franklin Hoard” Gold Pieces

This year’s Society of Private and Pioneer Numismatists (S.P.P.N.) meeting will consist of two presentations, both promising to fascinate all attendees. The first will be a talk from Dr. Robert Chandler titled “Wells Fargo, California’s Varied Monies, and Colorful Personalities.” Dr. Chandler has been the senior research historian at Wells Fargo Bank for 30 years, giving him insight into gold coinage, gold bullion, and the gold market. He has a doctorate for a dissertation concerning California during the Civil War, which taught him to adeptly convert gold coin into greenbacks and back again. A study of the Pacific Mail Steamship’s China trade brought an awareness of billheads stamped “Silver Taken at Market Value Only.” This Chairman of His Majesty’s Bridge Committee to properly designate The Emperor Norton Bridge after its creator, Bob knows more about Imperial Bonds than do Cuddy & Hughes. As an X-Noble Grand Humbug of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampsus Vitus he is skilled at interpreting history properly. Incidentally, Bob has written several books and 60 or so articles concentrating on the 1850s through the 1870s.

The meeting will conclude with a 10-15 minute discussion on another 15 pieces of related USAOG coinage from the controversial “Franklin Hoard”. Some were “discovered” by Paul Franklin; others have pedigrees back to Newcomer; still others are from “out of the woodwork”. Present will be the Pioneer Gold Forum, an assembly of experts joining together to analyze and discuss this important topic.

The annual S.P.P.N. meeting takes place during the ANA World’s Fair of Money in Los Angeles, CA on Saturday August 8, 2009 11AM in the Los Angeles Convention Center, West Hall Room 511B. This meeting is usually for current members of S.P.P.N., but anyone is encouraged to come and listen. The Private and Pioneer Numismatist of the Year Award will also be presented to this year’s recipient.

The Society of Private and Pioneer Numismatists has been a non-profit organization since 1992. Currently, there are approximately 165 members who convene annually during the ANA World’s Fair of Money. Membership is $35 per year and includes a subscription to the Brasher Bulletin, a thrice annual publication that features articles submitted and or written by members and the nation’s leading Private & Pioneer coining experts and historians. S.P.P.N. is operated in Tiburon, CA from the offices of Kagin’s, Inc.

Contact for more Information:
Lena DeMarco Taylor
Assistant Editor
Brasher Bulletin
1550 Tiburon Blvd. #201
Tiburon CA 94920



1851 Augustus Humbert $50 Gold PieceIRVINE, Calif. Bowers and Merena Auctions hosted their Beverly Hills Rarities Sale on Saturday, September 13, 2008, at The Tower Beverly Hills. The 933-lot auction of high-end rarities realized a total of $3,317,135.

The spotlight of the auction was on the new discovery 1851 Augustus Humbert $50 Gold piece of the Reeded Edge, 880 THOUS (K-5, Rarity-5) variety graded MS-65 * by NGC that realized $460,000 after an excited round of bidding. Prior to the auction, NGC chairman Mark Salzburg called it “the most memorable coin I have graded all year.” It is the only Humbert gold coin of any denomination with an NGC grade of MS-65 *, and no Humbert gold coins of any denomination or variety have been graded finer than MS-65 at either PCGS or NGC.

“A new discovery piece the caliber of this Humbert is so special and rare that I can think of only a very few in this league that I have come across in my 40-year span in the business,” said Steve Deeds, president. “It is very exciting to be able to present a coin like this to the world of collectors who will appreciate it for its history and value to the numismatic community. This is a showcase piece for its new owner and one that will be remembered for years to come.”

Also at the top of the list is an impressive near-Mint preservation 1859-O Liberty Double Eagle, Winter Variety One, the only known dies, from the Centennial Collection and graded AU-58 by NGC that realized $97,750. The 1859-O is a leading rarity in the New Orleans Mint Double Eagle series. A mere 75-85 pieces are believed extant in all grades – a total that confirms the 1859-O as rarer than all other O-mint coins of this denomination with the exception of the 1854-O, 1855-O, and 1856-O. The ‘59-O is equally as elusive as the lower-mintage ‘79-O of the Type III design.

Following close behind the 1859-O is an 1854 Liberty Double Eagle, Large Date in NGC MS-64, also from the Centennial Collection, that realized $96,600. An elusive variety in all grades, this extraordinary representative is among the finest known with a combined PCGS and NGC Population of just 3, and none are finer at either service. (more…)

Bowers and Merena to Auction Extraordinary Gem 1851 Augustus Humbert $50 Gold Piece in September

The Highest Graded Mint State Humbert Gold Coin of Any Denomination or Variety Graded MS-65 * by NGC

1851 Augustus Humbert $50IRVINE, Calif. – Bowers and Merena Auctions, America’s leading rare coin and currency auction house, will auction an extremely rare and exceptional 1851 Augustus Humbert $50 Gold Piece at their Beverly Hills Rarities Sale on Saturday, September 13, 2008, at The Tower Beverly Hills, prior to the Long Beach Coin, Stamp & Collectible Expo. Lot viewing for the entire auction is scheduled for Thursday through Saturday, September 11-13.

The coin, cataloged as August Humbert. $50 Gold. Reeded Edge. K-5. Rarity-5. 880 THOUS. MS-65 * (NGC), boasts a combined PCGS and NGC Population (1851 $50 Reeded Edge, 880 THOUS variety only) of just 1; 0 finer.

“This coin is a new discovery that has never been available for sale to our knowledge,” said Steve Deeds, president of Bowers and Merena. “The rarity, the quality, the history – it all adds up to make this one spectacular coin of the caliber that even the most experienced numismatists only see a few times in a lifetime. This coin is one of the high points of the year at Bowers and Merena and we know it is going to a cause a big buzz for our September Beverly Hills Rarities Sale.”

Fewer than 100 August Humbert Fifty-Dollar gold coins of all varieties have been certified as Mint State by PCGS and NGC, and the actual number of individual coins is probably only 60-70 pieces considering resubmissions of the same example(s) in attempts to secure a higher grade. Most of those coins, while strictly Mint State in that their surfaces are free of wear, are confined to lower grades through MS-63.

Distracting abrasions (some severe) bear much of the blame for this grade distribution, but subdued, lackluster surfaces are also seen quite frequently. Given the rustic conditions under which it was created, the strained economic conditions of Gold Rush California, and the various standards of numismatic conservation that have existed over the years, this Gem 1851 880 THOUS Humbert Fifty offered by Bowers and Merena should not exist. (more…)


Experts at SPPN meeting settle four decades of uncertainty

Franklin Hoard $20 1853 US Assay Office ForgeryA panel of leading numismatists determined the questionable 1853 United States Assay Office of Gold $20 proof, prooflike, and similar coins to be forgeries produced from transfer dies. The panel’s discussion was the main program at the annual meeting of the Society of Private and Pioneer Numismatists (SPPN) held in Baltimore, Maryland Saturday, August 2nd, 2008 as part of the American Numismatic Association’s World Fair of Money.

The Transfer Die Forgeries first appeared during the late 1950’s, “discovered” by Paul Franklin through a bank teller in Arizona. Franklin and John J. Ford Jr. sold hundreds of these pieces throughout the 1960’s as genuine pieces struck in San Francisco by the U.S. Assay Office in 1853. An arbitration hearing of the Professional Numismatists Guild in the late 1960’s ruled that the pieces were not proof, but could not come to an agreement on the authenticity or vintage. For the next forty years the authenticity of the Franklin Hoard pieces lay in question.

In 2006 Donald Kagin, Ph.D. and David J. McCarthy of Kagin’s, Inc. of Tiburon, Calif. were processing images of one of Kagin’s client’s collection for the upcoming 2nd edition of Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States. McCarthy noticed that the client’s unquestionably authentic 1853 Assay Office $20 bore bag marks in the same location as repeating depressions on the questionable Franklin Hoard coins. The marks of the original coin appear on all of the Franklin pieces, despite the best efforts of the forgers to evidently hide them with die polish. The panel agreed that the discovery of this authentic coin and the matching of the marks was the “smoking gun” in the case, condemning all of the Franklin pieces as the products of a one-to-one transfer die made from this authentic host coin.

Genuine At the conclusion of the discussion moderator Kagin asked the panel to accurately and succinctly title the coins in question. The experts unanimously agreed these pieces are best described as Transfer Die Forgeries. The panel also agreed efforts need to be taken to educate the numismatic community about these false coins.

The approach and decision of the panel is historic, creating a model for future forums to discuss other numismatic controversies. The SPPN would like to seek answers to other mysteries and controversies in the field of pioneer numismatics and is soliciting future topics for discussion.

The Society of Private and Pioneer Numismatists has been a non-profit organization since 1992. Membership is $35 per year and includes a subscription to the Brasher Bulletin, a thrice annual publication featuring articles by leading Private & Pioneer coinage experts and historians. S.P.P.N. is operated from the offices of Kagin’s, Inc. in Tiburon, CA. For further information, please contact Kagin’s, Inc. at 888.8KAGINS or 415.435.2601.

1830 Templeton Reid Georgia Gold Quarter Eagle to be Offered by Heritage in Baltimore

Templeton Reid Quarter Eagle 1830Templeton Reid is one of the more enigmatic figures associated with the so-called Territorial gold coinage (see notes below) of the United States.  Relatively little is known about him.  It is reported that as early as 1811, he was earning a living manufacturing cotton gins. Later he changed his career into clock and watch repair and then rifle-making in Milledgeville, Georgia, at the time Georgia’s state capital. Reid  moved to Gainesville, Georgia (close to Dahlonega) in 1830 to set up his Assay and Mint business.

The first Georgia gold was discovered by Benjamin Reed in 1828 near Dahlonega. (The name “Dahlonega” comes from the Cherokee words for “yellow money.”) The discovery caused an influx of thousands of miners that came to be known as “The Intrusion” by native tribes.

Reid saw an opportunity to produce local gold coins as a more convenient medium of commerce than the unassayed gold dust presently in use, and established his private mint a full eight years before the U.S. Mint opened branches in Dahlonega, Georgia; Charlotte, North Carolina; and New Orleans in 1838.

Reid struck two and a half, five, and ten dollar gold pieces in the three-month period from mid-July through mid-October 1830. On July 24, 1830, the Southern Recorder, a local newspaper, commented that Reid  struck approximately $1,500 in gold coinage. (some researchers believe that Reid may have possibly minted some coins in Milledgeville before his move to Gainesville, but to date there is no proof of that assertion). Reid told the newspaper that the gold coins would be accepted at face value (or “par”) at local banks and merchants.

Reid apparently made his coins from local gold “as mined” and  did not refine the gold to a higher purity. Whether this was due to a lack of knowledge as to how to refine the gold or a purposeful attempt on his part to make a few extra dollars is unknown. The native metal contained considerable amounts of silver, tin, and copper. As a result Reid’s coins were not “at par” with the face values marked on the coins,  In the 1830 era, emphasis was on the full intrinsic value of coins. Any gold or silver coin issued by the United State Mint, by a private source, or by any other entity was apt to be viewed with suspicion if it did not contain full weight and value. (more…)