1852 Humbert Ten Dollar, K-10, MS68
1852 $10 Humbert Ten Dollar MS68 NGC. CAC. Kagin-10, R.5.
The United States Assay Office operated as a provisional mint from
1851 through 1853 prior to the San Francisco Mint, which opened in
1854. The provisional mint was operated under the supervision of
Moffat & Co. in 1851 and 1852, Augustus Humbert serving as the
assayer. After Moffat retired early in 1852, Curtis, Perry, and
Ward continued the operation. Throughout the three year period,
gold coins were issued in the denominations of ten, twenty, and
fifty dollars. The earlier issues under Moffat & Co., such as
this specimen, identify Augustus Humbert as the United States
Assayer of Gold in California, while later pieces omit Humbert's
Humbert's Personal Coin
Finest Business Strike California Gold Piece
By Far the Finest U.S. Assay Office Gold Coin
Description of the Dies
The obverse depicts an eagle above a shield with wings spread, its head turned toward its left wing, arrows in one talon, an olive branch in the other talon, holding a ribbon inscribed LIBERTY in its beak. Below the eagle, the denomination is expressed as TEN DOLS. with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA around. A scroll in the field over the eagle expresses the gold purity as 884 THOUS:. The shield is crudely engraved, with no horizontal crossbars and five vertical stripes. The leftmost and rightmost vertical stripes have two individual lines (i.e. two pale gules) while the three central stripes have three lines each (three pale gules). The entire obverse die is covered with tiny raised dots usually described as die rust, along with a spider web of die cracks far too numerous to itemize.
The reverse has a central block for its inscription: AUGUSTUS HUMBERT. / UNITED STATES ASSAYER / OF GOLD. CALIFORNIA. / 1852. The areas above and below are filled with elaborate scrollwork. There is no evidence of lettering errors or repunching on either die. The letters in the reverse inscription were formed through the use of individual punches. The letter A appears six times on the reverse, and each has an identical doubled crossbar. The letter E appears four times, and each has identical filling within the letter. Other repeated letters also show common characteristics.
The Newman Specimen
The remarkable Superb Gem specimen from the Newman Collection is, by three points, the finest existing U.S. Assay Office gold piece, possessing brilliant light yellow surfaces with satin luster and tinges of greenish color natural to California-mined gold. It is the finest business strike of any California gold issuer. The fields are pristine and reflective, nearly prooflike in appearance. A few scattered planchet voids are unique to this piece and confirm the provenance to the Zabriskie sale, being visible in the plate of that Henry Chapman sale. Obvious care was taken when this specimen was minted in 1852, and since that day it has been handled with its full preservation in mind. From Augustus Humbert to his estate and Andrew Zabriskie after him, this piece was briefly held by Waldo Newcomer and Col. E.H.R. Green, followed by Eric P. Newman for the last seven decades. This amazing gold piece was plated in the Zabriskie catalog and on the Waldo Newcomer plate, and has only had a few owners since the day it was made. Heritage acknowledges the assistance of Stuart Levine, who discovered that this example was Humbert's own specimen by matching it to the Zabriskie plate, and Dan Hamelberg, who first noticed the Newcomer plate appearance.
Augustus Humbert; Humbert Estate; Captain Andrew C. Zabriskie (Henry Chapman, 6/1909), lot 358, which realized $101; unknown intermediaries; Waldo Newcomer; "Colonel" E.H.R. Green; Green Estate; Partnership of Eric P. Newman / B.G.Johnson d.b.a. St. Louis Stamp & Coin Co.; Eric P. Newman; Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society.
The Zabriskie Sale
Henry Chapman's sale of the Zabriskie collection included 1,429 lots that were sold over two days in June 1909. The $101 price of the Humbert $10 was substantial in a sale that had an average lot price of slightly more than $18. The Zabriskie sale included nine Higley coppers that sold for an average price of $51. An 1879 Flowing Hair Stella realized $85. The same price was realized for an 1848 CAL quarter eagle. There were only three dozen items that exceeded a $100 price tag including a Brasher doubloon that sold for $3,650. However, it was also a sale where six dollars bought a 1776 Continental dollar and nine dollars bought a copper Haseltine Restrike Confederate cent.
Captain Andrew Christian Zabriskie
Following the death of Augustus Humbert, his estate retained ownership of this piece and other examples that he had collected during the Gold Rush. Eventually, Captain Andrew Christian Zabriskie took advantage of an opportunity to acquire coins directly from the Humbert estate before the balance of that collection was sold at auction in 1902.
Zabriskie was the son of Christian A. Zabriskie and his wife, Sarah Jane Zabriskie, née Titus, born in New York on May 30, 1853, and died at his country estate in Barrytown-on-Hudson, New York, on September 15, 1916. He served in the New York National Guard, entering as a private in 1873 and leaving the service as a captain 25 years later. He was married to Frances Hunter on June 6, 1895. His obituary appeared in the New York Times:
"Andrew C. Zabriskie of 34 West Fifty-third Street, President for ten years of the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society, and known for his charities, died yesterday at his country home, Blithewood, at Barrytown-on-Hudson, N.Y., in his sixty-fourth year. He was a member of one of this country's oldest families, being descended from Albrecht Zaborowsky, who came here on the ship Fox in 1662.
"Mr. Zabriskie was born here and was a son of the late Christian A. Zabriskie and Mrs. Sarah J. Titus Zabriskie. He was educated in private schools and was a graduate of the School of Mines of Columbia University. In 1873 he entered the Seventh Regiment, N.Y.N.G., subsequently serving as Inspector of Rifle Practice for the Seventy-first, in which he was Captain of Company C, and from which he resigned in 1897. Mr. Zabriskie was active in politics in Duchess County, a member of the Democratic State Executive Committee, and Chairman of the Duchess County Board of Supervisors.
"All his life Mr. Zabriskie was a collector of coins and medals, and owned one of the best collections in this county, in which are many rare Lincoln medals and many rare Polish coins and medals. His collection of books and prints relating to the early history of New York is also notable.
"Mr. Zabriskie was also interested in breeding Ayreshire cattle and fancy poultry on his 1,000-acre estate at Blithewood. He was a Director of the Poughkeepsie Trust and the Bonner Brick Companies, Vice President of the Hospital and House of Rest for Consumptives, a Trustee of the Sheltering Arms and of the Parochial Fund of the Protestant Episcopal Church, and President of the Board of Trustees of the Church of St. John the Evangelist at Barrytown. In addition, he was a member of the St. Nicholas and Holland Societies, the Society of Colonial Wars, the Military Society of the War of 1812, and the Union, Metropolitan, Army and Navy, City, Riding, and Church Clubs and the Aero Club of America.
"He was one of the largest real estate owners of this city and spent his time taking care of his estate, making his offices at 52 Beaver Street, in the building erected more than seventy years ago by his grandfather, William M. Titus, on land once owned by his great-grandfather, Thomas Gardner.
"Mr. Zabriskie married Miss Frances Hunter, daughter of Charles F. Hunter, President of the People's Bank for many years, in 1895. They had two children, Miss Julie Romeyn Zabriskie and Christian Andrew Zabriskie."
Zabriskie amassed an impressive collection, most of which was sold in a Henry Chapman auction in June 1909. However, his collection of Polish coins was kept and improved by his son Christian Zabriskie, who donated the collection to the Smithsonian Institution in 1962. The younger Zabriskie donated the family home, Blithewood, to Bard College in 1951, and the mansion serves today as home of the Levy Economics Institute. Captain Zabriskie was known as a cattle breeder who also had real estate interests, and owned Province Island in Lake Memphremagog on the border between Vermont and Quebec. At one time the island was known as Zabriskie Island.
Zabriskie developed his numismatic interest at a young age. His work, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Political and Memorial Medals struck in Honor of Abraham Lincoln, was published in 1873 when he was just 20 years old. He joined the ANS the next year and eventually served as its 10th president from 1896 to 1905. He was an unsuccessful Congressional candidate in 1908.
Importance of the Newman Specimen
All of the U.S. Assay Office gold coins were official issues of the U.S. government and should be collected alongside regular issue U.S. gold coins struck at Philadelphia and the branch mints. Carrying the Superb Gem grade of MS68, this Augustus Humbert ten dollar piece, Humbert's own specimen, is the finest existing U.S. Assay Office gold piece by three points and the finest business strike California gold coin of any maker.
From The Eric P. Newman Collection. (NGC ID# ANGG, PCGS# 10187)
View all of [Selections From The Eric P. Newman Collection ]
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