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Finest Known 1849 Moffat Half Eagle

1849 $5 Moffat & Co. Five Dollar MS67 NGC. K-4, R.5. John Moffat was born in Goshen, New York on February 21, 1788. A veteran of the Southern Appalachian Gold Rush of the 1830s, he and Curtis, Perry, and Ward traveled to California and established Moffat & Co. on the San Francisco waterfront. After relocating to the southwest corner of Clay and Dupont Streets, the firm of Moffat & Co. began to advertise its new smelting and assaying business from June 21, 1849. Numismatists believe that the firm began to issue its famous rectangular gold ingots at this time. The cumbersome qualities of these ingots, however, made them almost worthless as a circulating medium of exchange and, after the Bavarian-born engraver George A. Ferdinand Kuner joined the firm from New York, Moffat & Co. enacted plans to produce actual gold coins. Kuner fashioned his coins after the federal Coronet gold issues of the era and, while they were not the first private issues of the California Gold Rush, their workmanship and composition was of such high quality as to ensure Moffat & Co.'s place as the leading private mint of their day.
Kuner's 1849 Half Eagles were issued from the fall of 1849 through early 1850. Kagin lists three distinct varieties. These are similar in overall appearance and differ only in the presence or absence of die cracks. The scarcest of the three varieties, as represented by the present piece, is the one which lacks both the die crack on the reverse rim below DOL. and the crack that bisects the eagle's breast. Despite characteristic softness of strike on the hair curls and eagle's talons, the crisply delineated features of this specimen speak volumes for the coinage skill of Kuner in particular and Moffat & Co. as a whole. The incredible, lustrous surfaces exhibit a pronounced granular texture as well as pastel avocado-golden patination. The balance of the coin is exceptionally smooth, having obviously been carefully preserved for over 150 years. Since many of Moffat & Co.'s gold issues were melted to provide bullion for the San Francisco Mint's first coinage of 1854, the rarity of this Superb Gem Half Eagle should be plainly evident to the territorial gold specialist. This is the single finest example thus far certified by either service (4/04).(#10240) (NGC ID# ANJ5, PCGS# 10240)

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Auction Dates
June, 2004
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 6
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