1853 $20 Assay Office Twenty Dollar, 900 Thous. MS65 PCGS. K-18, R.2. The U.S. Assay Office gold pieces are normally includ...
Condition Census 1853 U.S. Assay Office Twenty Dollar Gold, MS651853 $20 Assay Office Twenty Dollar, 900 Thous. MS65 PCGS. K-18, R.2. The U.S. Assay Office gold pieces are normally included in the Territorial and private mint gold coinage of the early West, but in reality the pieces are neither Territorial nor private. The U.S. Assay Office was the forerunner of what would become, in 1854, the San Francisco Mint, which began producing quarter eagles, half eagles, eagles, and double eagles in that year. When legislation was passed that required all Assay Office coinage to conform to the Mint Act of 1837, the effect was to have the older dies, with a listed fineness of 880 THOUS, repunched with 900 over the 880. All the pieces made by the U.S. Assay Office are of the 900 over 880 variety, but the undertype 880 fades over time. The 900 fine pieces were coined from March 1 to Oct. 30, 1853, with a total production of about 2.5 million pieces. Those dies, perhaps 30 in all, were destroyed in the San Francisco Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906, which ironically left the San Francisco Mint standing amid the rubble of hundreds of other nearby buildings.
This piece shows considerable evidence remaining of the 88. While the 9 shows an unrecognizable jumble at the top left loop, the first 0 shows prominent "horns" atop it, from the left and right sides of the underlying 8's top loop, which fail to join at the apex of their respective arcs. Both sides are highly lustrous, with deep golden-orange color and a complete absence of singular distractions. This delightful specimen of Territorial gold stands squarely atop the Condition Census of known examples of this available variety. It is one of five pieces graded in Gem condition at PCGS, with none finer, while NGC has graded an additional four pieces in MS65, again with none finer (11/06).
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