1855 $20 Wass Molitor Twenty Dollar, Small Head AU55 NGC. K-7, R.6. When the treasure of the S.S. Central America was l...
Choice AU 1855 Wass-Molitor Twenty1855 $20 Wass Molitor Twenty Dollar, Small Head AU55 NGC. K-7, R.6. When the treasure of the S.S. Central America was located and recovered, examples of several territorial issues were found, and some issues that were previously believed to be rare are now more available in the numismatic arena. Such was the case with the 1855 Wass, Molitor $10 gold piece, previously recorded as a R.7 variety, but now considered to be R.5. At the same time, there were no examples of this larger denomination $20 gold coin discovered, and current students of the series actually consider this variety to be R.6, rather than High R.5 as recorded by Kagin. Despite the appearance of three different examples in our January 2006 FUN sale, it is now believed that less than 30 examples survive for this issue.
After the Branch Mint at San Francisco opened its doors in April 1854, few additional private gold coins were minted in California. In fact, only the Wass, Molitor and Kellogg firms continued to produced California gold coinage after 1853. The Kellogg $20 coins and the Wass, Molitor $50 coins are the most usually seen of these later issues. The 1854 Kellogg $20 gold pieces actually predated the opening of the Federal Mint, with production commencing on February 9, 1854. During this final period of private gold issues, Wass, Molitor & Co. also struck $10 gold coins, although these and the $20 pieces were not issued in large quantities. Wass, Molitor & Co. initially established their business in 1851, with an announcement in the October 14, 1851 edition of the Alta California. Nearly four years later, an announcement appeared in the same paper, dated May 16, 1855, announcing that the firm was again producing gold coins, of $20 and $50 denominations, to the rate of $38,000 per day.
This is a delightful example of the Small Head $20 issue of 1855, the more plentiful, and usually seen variety of this denomination. It is clearly a top-quality piece with bright green-gold surfaces and considerable luster. The high points of the design on each side are rather indistinct, due to the shallow nature of the original coinage dies. The design is also quite simple, and covers only a small part of the obverse and reverse surface, leaving lots of room for abrasions to gather in the fields. Although this example is no different in that regard, it is remarkably pleasing with excellent overall eye appeal. Listed on page 358 of the 2007 Guide Book. (PCGS# 10357)
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