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1852 $50 Assay Office Fifty Dollar, 900 Thous. AU58 NGC....

2007 Milwaukee, WI (ANA) Signature Coin Auction #444

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Auction Ended On: Aug 9, 2007
Item Activity: 7 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Location: Milwaukee, WI
K-14 1852 Assay Office Fifty, 900 Thous., High R.5, AU58
Last of the Assay Office 'Slugs'
1852 $50 Assay Office Fifty Dollar, 900 Thous. AU58 NGC. K-14, High R.5. From January 1851 through late in 1852, the U.S. Assay Office had succeeded in going from laboriously producing the hand-stamped first fifty dollar ingots, which required 13 or 14 separate steps, to high-speed single-stroke production on high-capacity coinage presses that rivaled those of the Philadelphia Mint. From hand-stamping the fineness--880, 884, or 887, as the case may be--incuse onto each coin, the fineness, like all other devices and legends, was incused into the die.
By the spring of 1852, the Assay Office and a competitor, Wass, Molitor & Co., were producing gold coinage of several different denominations. On August 31, 1852, however, Congress disrupted the plans of pioneer gold coiners by stating that only federal gold coins and those of certain foreign countries were acceptable for the payment of customs duties. In a major port such as San Francisco, any gold coinage that was unacceptable for customs payments would instantly be rejected by the entire mercantile community. In addition, the U.S. Assay Office fifties produced through mid-1852 were all below the required 900 fineness of the federal standard. However, as U.S. Assayer Augustus Humbert explained late in the year in the San Francisco Herald, the more recent gold deposits were of higher purity than previously, and accordingly the Assay Office was able to produce 900 fine coins, even if the silver alloy intermixed in the California gold was not quite to the federal specification.
By 1852 the Assay Office was producing tens and twenties as well as fifties, and late in the year the firm obtained "machinery for use of their minting that was almost identical to that of the Philadelphia mint" (Kagin). The Assay Office shortly thereafter published a new table of tariffs, making the surcharge for striking twenties no more than for striking fifties, effectively ended the demand for the U.S. Assay Office slugs.
It seems likely that only a few thousand of this variety were struck late in the year or possibly early in 1853, as they are seldom seen today, particularly in as high a grade as the present example. Much luster remains on this delightfully even-colored, rare, and attractive piece, which shows just a trace of highpoint rub that separates it from Mint State. This piece serves as a fitting conclusion to the U.S. Assay Office ingots, historic in its adherence to the mandated federal standard achieved a short time before the official establishment of the San Francisco Mint, which would come about a year and a half later. Listed on page 355 of the 2008 Guide Book.
From The Pacific Rim Collection.
(PCGS# 10019)

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