AU Sharpness 1851 Humbert Fifty, 887 Thous., K-6, R.4
1851 $50 RE Humbert Fifty Dollar, 887 Thous.--Improperly
Cleaned--NCS. AU Details.
K-6, R.4. By later in 1851 U.S.
Assayer Augustus Humbert, a former New York watchmaker, had moved
from the cumbersome hand-lettered edges of the octagonal "slugs,"
"quintuple eagles," or "ingots" of the year's first coinage to a
reeded edge, a precaution against clipping as well as a
considerable efficiency improvement. (The first 1851 slugs also had
blanks for hand-punching the fineness and the amount of dollars and
cents--apparently a useless precaution as protection against the
unexpected; all known examples are fifty dollars and no cents.) The
government in Washington must have seemed awfully far away,
however, as the officials in the East appeared less than
sympathetic to the shortage of small coins in California during the
early days of the Gold Rush, as well as the difficulty of producing
.900 fine gold coins--the federal standard. A recurring lack of
parting acids made the production of such coins difficult, and
sometimes impossible. The Humbert and Assay Office coins of 1851
and 1852 were produced in varying finenesses including .880, .884,
and .887 fine. All of those coins were invalidated with an
astonishing stroke of the pen of Assistant Treasury Secretary
William Hodge, who wrote to customs collector King that only .900
fine coins could be accepted for payment of customs duties.
This K-6 variant shows the outer ribbon at the extreme edge of the
so-called "target" reverse. The piece is erroneously described on
the NCS insert as an 1852 Reeded Edge. The coin shows the
brightness one expects from a lightly cleaned coin, but there are
fewer abrasions present than usually seen on these
high-denomination "slugs." A faint trace of reddish patina can be
made out around the devices. Listed on page 362 of the 2009
From the Fern E. Wagner Trust.
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