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1848 CAL. Quarter Eagle, MS61
One-Year Type Coin
Possibly the First U.S. Commemorative

1848 $2 1/2 CAL. MS61 NGC. To commemorate the historic events of the California Gold Rush, a special coinage of quarter eagles was produced from the first shipment of gold bullion to arrive at the Philadelphia Mint from the gold fields. The shipment provided 230 ounces of the precious metal, which was transformed into 1,389 regular-issue quarter eagles, each coin bearing the inscription "CAL." above the eagle's head on the reverse.
The issue was immediately popular as a souvenir of the most important economic event of the pre-Civil War era. An example was featured in the Roper Sale (M. Thomas & Sons, 2/1851), considered to be the first real coin auction held in the United States. Early auction listings often described the coins as proofs, as in lot 2812 of the Sixth Semi-Annual Sale (W. Elliot Woodward, 3/1865):

"1848 Brilliant proof, having on the reverse Cal., to indicate that it was coined from the first gold of California received that year, excessively rare."

Modern research disputes these early listings. To quote Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth, "However, modern study has revealed that all were struck from the same pair of dies at the same time and that the dies had a Prooflike, not Proof, finish."
Regardless of their status as proof or business-strike issues, the coins are among the most attractive examples of U.S. coinage ever issued, and collectors of many disciplines pursue the date avidly. Many commemorative enthusiasts consider the 1848 CAL. quarter eagle the first U.S. commemorative coin, while type collectors consider it a one-year type coin. Of course, Liberty Head quarter eagle specialists include the issue in their sets, as well. Experts estimate fewer than 75 examples of this rare issue survive today in all grades. The 1848 CAL. quarter eagle is listed as one of the 100 Greatest U.S. Coins.
The present coin is an impressive Mint State example, with reflective yellow-gold surfaces on the reverse and hints of light green on the obverse. All design elements are sharply detailed, and there are discernable elements of field-device contrast present, though not enough for a Cameo designation. Outstanding eye appeal and unparalleled historic interest make this coin a "must have" for the advanced collector. Census: 4 in 61, 17 finer (7/10).(Registry values: P2) (NGC ID# 25HA, PCGS# 7749)

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Auction Dates
September, 2010
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 14
Members Tracking: N/A
Page Views: 3,428

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