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Near-Gem 1855-S Double Eagle
Tied for Finest Certified
Second-Year San Francisco Issue

1855-S $20 MS64 NGC. This second-year S-mint 1855 double eagle continues the amazing and complete Galt's Gulch Collection of Type One San Francisco Mint double eagles in high Mint State grades, save for the ultrarare 1861-S Paquet Reverse twenty, which is an AU58 NGC coin.
The complete collection in many ways encapsulates (pun unintended) the economic, political, and demographic history of the United States during the middle decades of the 19th century. The first Type One issue, the 1854-S, embodies the importance of the California Gold Rush, the ensuing great westward migration of hordes of miners, minters, merchants, and miscreants, and the eventual establishment of the San Francisco Mint, The later issues in the mid-1850s show a new mint at the dawn of one of its most robust production eras, before the Civil War and after California and San Francisco entered periods of explosive growth. (In 1849 alone, the California Gold Rush increased the population of San Francisco from 1,000 to 25,000 persons.) Other issues in this collection demonstrate the commercial significance of steamship travel to and from San Francisco, its perils to persons and property, and its eventual eclipse by railroads and rail travel. The 1860s double eagles in the Galt's Gulch Collection reflect the national travail and tribulation of the divisive War Between the States.
The 1855-S double eagle shows a San Francisco Mint that "hit the ground running," despite some early shortages of critical supplies. While the 1854 gold coinage was largely double eagles, struck to the extent of 141,468 pieces, the 1855-S gold coinage comprised all six authorized gold denominations -- gold dollar, quarter eagle and three dollar (for the first time), the half eagle, eagle, and double eagle. The double eagles were struck in a generous quantity of 879,675 coins, or more than six times the number minted in the prior year. In this interesting time in U.S. numismatic history, five mints made half eagles -- but San Francisco made as many as Charlotte and Dahlonega combined.
Despite the enormous double eagle mintage, the burgeoning West Coast economy was still strapped for circulating coinage. Most survivors of the 1855-S twenty grade no more than Choice XF or thereabouts. The present near-Gem is the sole finest certified at NGC and tied with seven examples in that grade at PCGS. Those PCGS pieces are almost certainly recently certified shipwreck recoveries from the S.S. Central America, which sank in 1857, as when we offered this piece in 2004, it was the sole finest certified at either service. We wrote at that time:

"This tantalizing example would capture the eye of even the most casual observer. We can find no areas of unduly bothersome striking softness and the surfaces are incredibly clean for the issue. One milling mark is detected on Liberty's chin, the only mentionable grade-limiting identifier. The texture is warm and satiny, and contiguous cartwheel effects are noted at every angle. With bright yellow-gold patina overall, it is little wonder that this premium quality specimen is the single finest certified survivor between both major grading services."

To that accurate description we would merely append that the mintmark is of the Small or Medium S type, considerably smaller than that displayed on the 1854-S, and placed to the left of the eagle's tail point. The A and E in STATES are unbroken. This piece represents a second opportunity to partake of the many joys of this landmark collection.
Ex: Palm Beach Signature (11/2004), lot 8735, which realized $29,900.
From The Galt's Gulch Collection.(Registry values: N4719) (NGC ID# 268X, PCGS# 8916)

View all of [The Galt's Gulch Collection ]

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Auction Dates
January, 2012
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 7
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
Page Views: 1,230

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