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1851 $50 LE Humbert Fifty Dollar, Lettered Edge, 880 Thous. NGC. K-2, R.5....

2013 April 24 - 28 CSNS US Coin Signature Auction - Chicago #1184

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Offers to date: $57,550 on February 20, 2014
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Auction Ended On: Apr 25, 2013
Item Activity: 8 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Location: Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel
1551 North Thoreau Drive
Schaumburg, IL 60173

1851 Lettered Edge Humbert Fifty, K-2, XF
880 Thous., Important Hand-Worked Issue
1851 $50 LE Humbert Fifty Dollar, Lettered Edge, 880 Thous. NGC. K-2, R.5. No 50 Reverse, as certified by NGC. This is likely an example of the K-2 variety lacking the 50 denomination in the central reverse, although wear prevents an absolute determination. Given the greater R.6 rarity of the K-1 With 50 Reverse fifty dollar pieces (and given that we see no trace of a 50 or the interior border, which exists on both varieties), we assume the (still rare) K-2 No 50 variety. Nonetheless, some of the outer portions of the machine-turned "watchmaker" reverse details are visible, but the central portion is exposed to the greatest amount of wear.

Given the 20 points of wear that this greenish-gold piece has seen, it nonetheless retains a good amount of detail on the obverse, where the sunken central devices are protected by the raised rim. This is nonetheless a coin that has seen considerable wear, and abrasions of various sizes dot the surfaces throughout. The 1851 Humbert fifties were the only denomination available in 1851 -- it would be 1852 before smaller-denomination coins began to circulate in Gold Rush California -- and these heavy, soft coins were workhorses of commerce, along with true ingots (which these greatly resemble).

The production of these first types, with the 1851 date and AUGUSTUS HUMBERT UNITED STATES ASSAYER OF GOLD CALIFORNIA all hand-stamped on the edge, was just that, a production in itself, involving a raft of manual operations. The D and C on the obverse were intentionally left blank to allow for odd denominations of dollars and cents to be punched, although only the even fifty dollar denomination was actually created (again, with 50 and the 880 fineness each hand-stamped onto the obverse die). Most of these pieces were melted later on to produce smaller-denomination gold coins that were more commerce-friendly, explaining their great rarity today. This piece, as an example of the earliest, most colorful, and most important Humbert coinage, should perform quite well at auction. Listed on page 376 of the 2013 Guide Book. (PCGS# 10196)

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