1848 $2 1/2 CAL. MS62 PCGS....
Iconic 1848 CAL. Quarter Eagle, MS621848 $2 1/2 CAL. MS62 PCGS. At the beginning of 1848, the idea of a quarter eagle stamped CAL. on the reverse never would have entered the head of anyone. Yet within the space of a year, the beginning of the California Gold Rush unfolded. In late January (different sources list the 24th or the 25th among others), James Wilson Marshall discovered a few flecks of gold at the construction site for a sawmill, known today as "Sutter's Mill," on the American River in California.
By June 1848, a representative of the U.S. Army, which governed California at the time, had traveled to the site to confirm the discovery. The "discovery piece" of gold (now in the Smithsonian) and other samples--more than 230 ounces in all--were prepared by California's military governor Richard Mason, packed into a now-legendary tea caddy, and sent with Lieutenant Lucien Loeser on a journey to Washington, D.C. The lieutenant telegraphed his colonel's report to the capital from New Orleans, and so word of California gold arrived before the actual gold did.
The gold itself came in early December. It was sent on to Philadelphia with orders to make it into medals and quarter eagles: medals for military heroes, coins for civilians who wanted a commemorative. This MS62 survivor, housed in a green label holder, clearly was saved from the time of issue and kept more-or-less carefully.
A few wispy pinscratches and abrasions appear in the fields, but the watery yellow-gold luster is intact. Both the main devices and the CAL. stamp are boldly impressed; Garrett and Guth explain that the CAL. stamp was made while the coin rested on the die; this explains the lack of distortion on the obverse, since the gold would only be pressed against the die and not allowed to spread. A magnificent coin that truly exemplifies the description of money as "history in your hands." Population: 8 in 62, 14 finer (6/10).(Registry values: P2) (NGC ID# 25HA, PCGS# 7749)
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