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Description

Mint State 1852 Assay Office 'Slug,' 900 Thous., K-14, R.5
Boldly Struck and Appealing

1852 $50 Assay Office Fifty Dollar, 900 Thous. MS60 NGC. K-14, High R.5. As late as December 1851, the federal government "back East" had refused to grant the Humbert-Moffat U.S. Assay Office operation permission for the coinage of the smaller denominations of five, ten, and twenty dollars that were so sorely needed for the conduct of normal business. (More technically, it granted such permission, only to rescind it the following day because a new Mint was expected to be built, sooner rather than later. As reality would have it, the Mint was established later rather than sooner, finally opening its doors for coinage in April 1854.) Meanwhile, the inexorable glut of the ubiquitous fifty dollar octagonal "slugs" that were the only federally authorized gold coinage on the West Coast continued to flow from the coinage presses at the U.S. Assay Office with increasing speed and efficiency. In early 1852 it was announced that John L. Moffat had sold his interest in Moffat & Co. The Assay Office reorganized under Curtis, Perry, and Ward, retaining interest in the Moffat & Co. name. A competitor firm, Wass, Molitor & Co., began producing gold in ten and twenty dollar denominations, alleviating some of the pressure for the smaller coins. In February the Assay Office received permission to strike smaller denominations, producing overdated 1852/1 and normal-date 1852 ten and twenty dollar pieces.
Although the federal authorities in 1852 communicated to the customs collector in San Francisco that he could no longer accept coinage that did not comply with the 900 fineness of federal gold, the local business community managed to accede to the fairly unreasonable demand. Fortunately, the recent deposits of gold were of higher fineness than previously, so that the U.S. Assay Office was able to produce gold at the higher standard. (The mandate that half of the alloy had to be silver, with the rest copper, was more problematic, but again, a workaround was found since copper was unavailable.) After October 1852, according to Bowers' A California Gold Rush History, "nearly all ingots issued by the Assay Office were 900 thousandths fine." Coinage of the U.S. Assay Office fifty dollar ingots ceased in 1853, since they were no longer needed or wanted after the lower-denomination pieces began circulation, and the Assay Office closed its doors in December 1853 to make way for the San Francisco Mint, which began coinage in April 1854.
The surfaces of this lovely coin appear suggestive of a higher grade, as both the centers and peripheries are blessed by a bold strike that is head and shoulders better than usually seen on these pieces. Perhaps the harder 900 fine gold made a difference, yet the piece was perhaps downgraded for a couple of light pinscrapes on the reverse. A nice and appealing representative of this late issue in the Moffat-Humbert-Assay Office saga, listed on page 355 of the 2008 Guide Book.
From The Pacific Rim Collection.
(PCGS# 10019)

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Auction Dates
August, 2007
8th-12th
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 7
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