1850 $10 Dubosq & Co. Ten Dollar MS60 NGC. K-2, R.7....
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Very Rare Territorial Issue
Second-Finest Certified Example
The firm of Dubosq and Co. was founded by Theodore Dubosq, a Philadelphia jeweler, and his family in 1849. Apparently, the Dubosqs came to California for the express purpose of starting a private mint, as evidenced by the following account of their departure on the ship Grey Eagle in the January 18, 1849 edition of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin:
"Mr. Theodore Dubosq, Sr., jeweler, North Second Street, we understand takes out with him the machinery for melting and coining gold, and stamping it with a private mark, so as to establish a currency which will afford the greater convenience and facility for dealing in the raw material."
The Dubosqs arrived in California on May 18, 1849, but they may not have set up business operations right away, despite the dire need for circulating coinage in the local economy. No 1849-dated coins are known with the Dubosq name, but a few pattern quarter eagles and half eagles in copper exist, so it is possible that gold coins were struck, but none have survived. The only surviving gold coins from Dubosq & Co. are the very rare 1850-dated five and ten dollar pieces. Edgar Adams believed Dubosq engraved the dies for the 1849 patterns himself, but there is much speculation that the 1850-dated coins were struck from dies engraved by James B. Longacre, Chief Engraver at the Philadelphia Mint. The design elements on the 1850 five and ten dollar Dubosq coinage closely resemble the motifs used for regular-issue federal coinage of that time, and a pair of Dubosq patterns were found in Longacre's estate, corroborating this theory. However, the 1849 copper patterns do not look at all like the 1850 gold issues, so it seems unlikely that Longacre engraved the 1849 dies. The case for Longacre engraving the 1850 dies is much stronger, and Donald Kagin accepted it in his Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States. However, when Kagin's offered the present coin in the 1986 ANA Convention sale, the cataloger thought it more likely that Albert Kuner engraved, or at least reengraved, the obverse.
Whoever engraved the ten dollar dies, they were certainly well-made and durable. They were apparently used to strike all the Dubosq ten dollar coins in 1850 and 1851 (without changing the date), and then sold to Wass, Molitor & Co. for use on that firm's 1852 ten dollar coinage. A careful comparison of the 1850 Dubosq ten dollar obverse, K-2, with that of the 1852 Wass, Molitor ten dollar gold piece, K-3, reveals the following similarities:
1. The placement of the stars and their orientation in relation to the dentils and the bust are an exact match.
2. The placement of the first three numerals of the date also matches.
3. The contours of the hair, coronet, and facial features are identical.
4. Both coins show 210 dentils on the obverse.
It would be virtually impossible to duplicate all these features so closely with the technology the California minters had at their disposal in the early 1850s. Kagin noted the final digit in the date had been drilled out and replaced by a 2, but he theorized that Wass, Molitor & Co. had prepared the die in late 1851 and had not used it that year, making it necessary to alter the date for 1852 coinage. It now seems more likely that it was the 0 in the Dubosq ten dollar die that was drilled out and replaced. Of course, the inscription on the coronet was extensively reworked. Remnants of the U and S of DUBOSQ are barely visible in the area of the first and second periods on the W.M. & Co. inscription. The Wass, Molitor coins have always been known for their weak strike, but the extensive reworking of the die probably accounts for much of the incomplete detail. Kagin noted that the reverse dies for the Dubosq ten dollar coins were also used by Wass, Molitor & Co., but we believe this is the first time the reworking and later use of the obverse has been noted.
Dubosq formed a partnership with a man named Goodwin in 1850, and it is likely that the firm began issuing gold coins at that time. Judging by later reports, their output must have been prodigious during this period. The San Francisco Alta California reported that Dubosq & Co. struck $150,000 face value in gold coins during the first three months of 1851. Either the firm was still using the 1850-dated dies, or the entire mintage from this period was later destroyed, because no 1851-dated coins of any denomination are known today. Seven ten dollar coins and three five dollar pieces were assayed by Augustus Humbert, at the behest of James King of William, on March 21, 1851. The ten dollar pieces were found to contain on average $9.93 worth of gold and the five dollar coins had an intrinsic value of $4.96. Dubosq claimed the small difference in face verses intrinsic value was made up by the inclusion of silver alloy in each coin, which Humbert failed to evaluate in his assay. Even though the results of the assay were much better than those for many other firms, Dubosq & Co. was tarred with the same brush as the other private mints. The exact date when the firm stopped operations is not known, but the discredited coinage, which had circulated widely, was soon turned in for recoinage and the Dubosq coins became extremely elusive at an early date.
The first auction appearance of a Dubosq ten dollar gold piece was not until 1929, in lot 1357 of Thomas Elder's Dr. George Alfred Lawrence Collection:
"1850. $10. Head of Liberty to left. DUBOSQ & CO. on coronet. 13 stars, date. Rx. Eagle holds arrows and sprig in talons. S. M. V. CALIFORNIA GOLD. Below, TEN D. Edge milled. A few edge nicks. Fine. Exceedingly rare. It is believed none has been offered at auction in forty years, if ever. It is said to have cost its owner several thousands of dollars. Adams # 39. Perhaps the greatest headliner of this sale. Plate."
The lot realized $3,900, a staggering price at the time, when the average car cost $425 and the median price for a single family dwelling was $7,882. PCGS has certified only four examples, the finest in AU50, while NGC has graded just two coins, this specimen in MS60 and another in MS61 (2/14).
The present coin is an attractive Mint State example, with sharply detailed design elements that show full star radials and just a touch of softness on the hair above the ear. The pleasing yellow-gold surfaces retain much of their original mint luster and show a scattering of minor contact marks. A shallow scratch between stars 10 and 11 and some light pinscratches in the left obverse field act as pedigree markers. This coin has been off the market for almost 27 years, and it may be decades before a coin with this combination of absolute rarity, great historic interest, and high technical grade becomes available again for public offering. Listed on page 387 of the 2014 Guide Book.
Roster of 1850 Dubosq & Co. Ten Dollar Gold Pieces
1. MS61 NGC. Found in a Placerville, California creekbed in 1985; purchased by Ron Gillio; Long Beach Sale (Pacific Coast Auction Galleries, 6/1987), lot 1814, realized $55,000.
2. MS60 NGC. Discovered in the San Francisco Bay area in May of 1986 by Allan Pankey, of Breckinridge, Colorado, using a metal detector; ANA Convention Auction (Kagin's, 8/1986), lot 5456, bought-in at $46,200; unknown intermediaries; the present coin.
3. AU53 estimated grade. Smith & Son; Stack's; Josiah K. Lilly; Smithsonian Institution.
4. XF40 PCGS. A specimen recovered from the wreck of the S.S. Central America; Gold Rush Treasures (Christie's-Spink, 12/2000), lot 122.
5. XF estimated grade. A specimen in the collection of the Bank of California.
6. VF20 PCGS. R.C.W. Brock; University of Pennsylvania; Phillip Ward; Rovensky-Hoffecker Collections (B. Max Mehl, 11/1954), lot 1919; Amon Carter, Sr.; Amon Carter, Jr.; Carter Family Collection (Stack's, 1/1984), lot 1153, realized $38,500; San Francisco Collector; Long Beach Sale (Pacific Coast Auction Galleries, 6/1987), lot 1815; Charles Kramer; Kramer Collection (Stack's-Superior, 11/1988), lot 935, realized $23,100; Jascha Heifetz Collection (Superior, 10/1989), lot 5550, realized $25,850; Father Flanagan's Boys Home Sale (Superior, 5/1990), lot 6012, realized $19,250.
7. VF estimated grade. Discovered in California by B. Max Mehl in 1914; Waldo Newcomer; B. Max Mehl, circa 1931; Charles Williams; Numismatic Gallery Monthly January 1951 FPL; Lammot duPont; Willis duPont; stolen in 1967; possibly recovered; present location unknown.
8. VG 8 PCGS. Joel Rettew Winter 1976 FPL; Jack Klausen; ANA Convention Auction (Kagin's, 8/1983), lot 3625, realized $27,500; Paul S. Mory Collection (Bowers and Merena, 6/2000), lot 1042; offered by Bowers and Merena in the June 11, 2001 issue of The Coin Collector at $ 49,500; Rarities Sale (Bowers and Merena, 1/2002), lot 849, realized $29,900.
A. A specimen reportedly in the possession of B. Max Mehl in 1923; sold to Virgil Brand for $1,500.
B. An example exhibited at the January 2, 1924 meeting of the Chicago Coin Club by Henry Chapman, per the March 1924 issue of The Numismatist. Walter Breen believed this was the coin in number 8 above. It might also be the coin in C below.
C. Dr. George Alfred Lawrence; Lawrence Collection (Thomas Elder, 6/1929), lot 1357, realized $3,900.
D. VF in 1948, possibly XF today. DeWitt Smith; Virgil Brand in 1908 (Brand Journal number 47372); Brand Estate; Armin Brand; purchased by B.G. Johnson on 3/19/1946 for $4,500; Jacob Shapiro (a.k.a. J.F. Bell); Hollinbeck Coin Company 1946 FPL number 28 at $6,000, unsold; Jacob Shapiro; Memorable Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 3/1948), lot 960, realized $1,950. Possibly the coin in number 3 or 5 above.
From The Riverboat Collection. (PCGS# 10179)
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