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Mint State K-4 Humbert Fifty Dollar 'Ingot,'
1851 $50 LE Humbert Fifty Dollar, 887 Thous. 50 Rev. MS60
NGC. K-4, High R.5. This is an important example of California
Gold Rush history. American numismatic history provides us with
numerous quaint and colorful names for these pieces. The "quintuple
eagle" moniker is understandable, since these fifty dollar coins
were officially five times that of the ten dollar piece, or eagle.
The term "slug" has a more uncertain derivation, but a couple of
its past meanings are instructive: A "slug" in printing is a thick
strip of metal, and a "slug" in its oldest (1375-1425) meaning
means a "heavy, slow person." Either of those meanings could have
developed into a heavy coin, and/or a person who carries them!
887 Thous, With 50 Reverse
Another term used to describe them, "ingot," is actually more on the mark, for these earliest octagonal fifties purposely bore a "modular" design, with the obverse little more than a standard design with blanks for dollars and cents figures beside a _D_C device that could be punched in by hand, as the need required. Clearly, when Augustus Humbert received this die from Charles Cushing Wright before leaving for California, neither of them could anticipate exactly what coinage denominations would be needed or feasible, or what gold finenesses would be encountered. It is possible that this same die was contemplated for use with one hundred dollar and two hundred dollar pieces as well of extra thickness, and/or to produce coins denominated in dollars and fractions thereof
Humbert arrived in San Francisco January 30, 1851, and struck the first ingots the next day. The obverse features the defiant eagle design below a scroll inscribed 887 THOUS in incuse numerals. In the eagle's mouth is a ribbon inscribed LIBERTY. The legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA around the outside is surrounded by a wide border on this massive octagonal gold coin. Below the eagle are the raised letters D and C, preceded by another incuse 50 punched into the surface. On the reverse is the famous engine-turned design with an incuse 50 at the center. One of the most fascinating features of this slug is the edge, although it is largely obscured inside the NGC holder. We know that it reads AUGUSTUS / HUMBERT / UNITED / STATES / ASSAYER / OF GOLD / CALIFORNIA / 1851.
This is a pleasing example with fully brilliant greenish yellow-gold color and substantial luster. The obverse striking details are impressive, with the design elements above average for this design. On the ribbon, the 887 is incuse, and has been hand-punched with individual number punches into the coin's surface. The surfaces display a number of moderate marks, mostly on the obverse. Listed on page 353 of the 2008 Guide Book. (NGC ID# ANH4, PCGS# 10208)
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