1855 $50 Kellogg & Co. Fifty Dollar PR63 PCGS....
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In the 1840s, the East was infected by a strange wanderlust that came to be called the Oregon Fever. The Oregon, as it was then known, embraced half a million square miles and stretched from roughly the boundary set by the upper stretch of the Oregon Trail (the 42nd parallel determined as American territory when Spain withdrew in 1819) into present-day Canada, south of latitude 54 degrees 40 ("Fifty-Four Forty")--to which Russia had retreated under treaties with the United States and Great Britain during the 1820s. The area came under political dispute in Washington, D.C., when, in 1844, the Whig Party's Henry Clay campaigned against the Democrats' James Polk. Polk was unknown compared to Clay; he and his party needed a vigorous platform if they hoped to win the White House. They coined the phrase "Fifty-four Forty or Fight"--claiming that The Oregon was by natural definition America's--and they won both the presidency and the hearts of countless restless wanderers who hoped to settle out West and be free from all that was Eastern. Polk would become President from 1845-49, and would witness, from afar, the greatest expansion of America's land in our history. Out of this expansion would come unimaginable wealth that would transform the nation from agrarian and Eastern into a mighty force. It was called the Gold Rush.
The names are largely forgotten today. The Fremont Trails. The Mormon-Spanish Trail. The California Trail. More familiar are the Santa Fe Trail in the south and the Oregon Trail in the north. Tens of thousands of wanderers rode and trudged along these routes in the dirt with their possessions, many of which were abandoned along the way as the ardor of the trip pressed upon them. Why did they go? What inspired them? Individually they sought free land to settle upon and make new lives. But there was more, far more. When Oregon Fever was at its height, Senator Benton in 1844 insisted that the pioneers should inundate the territory and thereby claim it permanently for the United States. He screamed on the Senate floor: "Let the emigrants go on; and carry their rifles" to drive foreigners (Russians, French, British) trading in the area "off our continent" and to "quiet the Indians, and protect the American interests."
What he was bellowing about has come to be known to history as Manifest Destiny. The phrase was coined in 1845 by journalist John L. O'Sullivan, an influential advocate for the Democratic Party, shortly after Benton's speech. Many politicians, including Lincoln, believed that the nation should contain itself and tend to its farms, literally and metaphorically. Others rallied to the idea of Manifest Destiny, which made concrete the idea that America had a natural right to fill out its boundaries "from sea to shining sea," as the phrase of the day took it to the hearts of all who wished to settle out West. It justified territorial acquisition for the nation. It was all about land ... until gold was discovered in 1848 along a quiet river in central California.
The rush for mineral wealth expanded the boundaries of the United States decades faster than would have occurred had the settlers simply gone west for land. It and the war with Mexico moved the U.S.-Mexican boundary line from just north of Mt. Shasta in the far north of Alta California in 1845 to approximately the boundary line that exists today. The larger quest was for territory. Individual quests were for gold. But gold dust and gold nuggets alone were not sufficient. Don Kagin's first words in his masterful book on territorial coinage were as follows: "A prosperous economy requires an adequate means of exchange ..."
Ingenious settlers in the far West included technicians who would transform the raw product into money. When John Glover Kellogg moved from New York state to San Francisco in the autumn of 1849, could he have imagined that the products he would create a few years later (as local bankers trusted his firm to produce excellent coins of full value) would transform the fairly crude early pioneer gold issues into nothing less than sheer symbols of the Gold Rush itself--emblems of the new, vaster and wealthier nation, gleaming with native gold? They transformed the ore into useful money that were also symbols of this change. Mostly Kellogg made golden twenties that were vigorously used (and needed in the inflationary wildcat towns). Kagin says that Kellogg planned to issue fifties, but all known specimens are proofs--"giving rise to the theory that these coins only reached the experimental stage." The year was 1855. The Gold Rush was ending. Kellogg as a firm was dissolved in 1860. John Glover Kellogg died in April of 1886, never realizing that his practical products had slipped into history. It was not until 1912 that Edgar H. Adams declared the fifty dollar coin "one of the handsomest pieces of die-cutting in the entire California series." It has come to be viewed as more than that. No coin represents the Gold Rush, nor the fulfillment of Manifest Destiny, more than this magnificent emblem of the American West.
The following roster was compiled by staff cataloger and researcher, Mark Borckardt, for the # 1 specimen listed below and sold in January of this year. The roster was derived from a variety of sources and expanded the listing in Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, and he updated the list by consultation with Dr. Donald H. Kagin, a specialist in private gold coinage.
It is believed that just 12 or 13 examples of this famous rarity are known. The numbers assigned to each specimen rank them according to grade, with the associated number from Walter Breen's roster included. At one time or another, most of the known examples have been described as the finest known.
1. PR64 PCGS. Breen #11. British private collection; Stack's (5/1984), lot 784; Robert Hughes; Bowers and Merena (8/1995), lot 498; 2007 FUN Auction (Heritage, 1/2007), lot 3893. In their 1984 catalog, Stack's noted: "From information conveyed to us, this coin has recently come from England along with a few less important Territorial and Federal gold coins."
2. PR64 PCGS. Breen #1. Augustus Humbert; Capt. Andrew C. Zabriskie; Col. James W. Ellsworth; John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University (Bowers and Ruddy, 3/1980), lot 910; Kagin's; Paul Padget; Donald Kagin and Stuart Levine; private collection. In the Garrett catalog, it was noted: "It is believed to be the finest known example of its kind." However, that catalog was written several years before the present example became known to the numismatic community.
Note: Walter Breen recorded the Garrett piece as later appearing in Auction '85. However, the coin in that auction was the unique 1854 Kellogg $20 proof from the Garrett Collection.
3. PR63 PCGS. The specimen offered here. Not in Breen. Smith & Son (3/1941); Frank Heim (6/2000); Don Kagin; Q. David Bowers; Don Kagin; Superior (1/2005), lot 953; Western collector; Pacific Rim Collection.
4. Choice Proof. Not in Breen. Superior (5/1987), lot 3140. This piece appears to be a new example that does not match any of the others, and was not listed in the Breen Census.
5. PR62 PCGS. Breen #3. George W. Rice; DeWitt Smith; Virgil M. Brand; William F. Dunham (B. Max Mehl, 6/1941), lot 2369; W.D. Waltman Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1945), lot 37; Amon Carter Collection (Stack's, 1/1984), lot 1149; Harlan White; Heritage (8/1997), lot 7898; Donald Kagin; Craig Smith; Bowers and Merena (6/2000), lot 1053; Bowers and Merena (1/2002), lot 857; Midwest collection.
6. PR62 NGC. Breen #7. N.M. Kaufman Collection (RARCOA, 8/1978), lot 66; Auction '80 (Paramount, 8/1980), lot 982; Auction '84 (RARCOA, 7/1984), lot 2000; Heritage (8/1992), lot 2583; RARCOA; Donald Kagin; private collection.
7. PR62. Breen #9. John Story Jenks; Reuting Collection; Arthur C. Nygren (B. Max Mehl, 11/1914), lot 82; George Alfred Lawrence (Thomas Elder, 6/1929), lot 1365; John H. Clapp; Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; Eliasberg Estate (Bowers and Merena, 5/1996), lot 366; East Coast collection.
8. PR62. Breen #4. Fred Huddart; George H. Earle; Judge C.W. Slack (B. Max Mehl, 5/1925), lot 29; Col. E.H.R. Green; Josiah Lilly Collection; Smithsonian Institution. Walter Breen recorded this specimen as once the property of Amon Carter, Sr. and Jr., although such a listing is doubtful. Additional intermediaries handled this coin on a consignment basis. Both Smithsonian pieces have recently been examined and graded by Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth.
9. PR62. Breen #5. H.O. Granberg; William H. Woodin; Waldo C. Newcomer; Willis duPont; Smithsonian Institution. This piece was stolen from duPont in October 1967 and recovered in July or August 1978, as reported in Coin World, August 9, 1978. Illustrated at http://americanhistory.si.edu.
10. PR58 PCGS. Breen #2. Kellogg family; "J.F. Bell;" Memorable Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 3/1948), lot 967; Don Keefer; F.K. Saab; Gibson Sale (Stack's, 11/1974), lot 189; Stack's (Auction '79), lot 996; Stack's (10/1983), lot 239; Stack's (10/2003), lot 2292. In the earlier sales, Stack's described this piece as a "Brilliant Proof," upgrading the description to "Gem Brilliant Proof" in their 2003 catalog, although it was later certified as PR58.
11. PR53 PCGS. Breen #10. J.W. Schmandt (Stack's, 1954); Dan Brown; John H. Murrell; Henry H. Clifford; Kagin's (1983 ANA Sale), lot 3630; Superior (Auction '88), lot 491; Superior (Auction '90), lot 1406; Superior (8/1992); private collection.
12. Impaired Proof. Breen #6. John A. Beck, part I (Quality Sales, 1/1975), lot 729; Dr. Ketterman; Arnold and Romisa Collections (Bowers and Merena, 9/1984), lot 330; Bowers and Merena (6/1985), lot 24; Christies (3/1994), lot 375; Stack's (3/2005), lot 1320; Donald Kagin; private collection. Described as a "Brilliant Proof with some hairlines and minor friction."
13. XF Details NCS. Breen #8. C.W. Cowell (B. Max Mehl, 1911); Waldo Newcomer; Amon Carter, Sr.; 1962 N.Y. Metropolitan Sale (Stack's, 4/1962), lot 2814; John Rowe; Abner Kreisberg (1968); Quality Sales Corp. (11/1972), lot 1410A; Jack Klauson; 1973 ANA Sale (Jess Peters), lot 1030; Pine Tree (3/1974), lot 455; West Coast collection; Christies (3/1990); Stack's (3/2005), lot 1321; Donald Kagin; private collection. In 1972, Abner Kreisberg and Jerry Cohen commented: "The usual surface abrasions and scratches have all been removed and quite a bit of luster is still adhering. Extremely Fine."
The fields on this magnificent piece are as deeply reflective as any federally issued proof from the 1850s. The fields have an unusual texture-a "dry creek bed" appearance that is sometimes seen on proofs that were struck with non-chromium plated dies. As one would expect, the devices are intricately detailed on each side. On the left side of the obverse there is a curious unstruck area. This area extends from stars 3 to 6. The stars and field are not completely brought up on stars 4 and 5 and underlying planchet striations also show. This area is distinctive enough to identify this as the Heim specimen. There is also a dash-like planchet flaw in the left obverse field close to star 4. On the lower reverse, we note a die crack from the TY of LIBERTY around the right to the CO of FRANCISCO. Another crack branches off perpendicularly at the O in DOLLS and N in CALIFORNIA. The bright yellow-gold color shows just the slightest accent of reddish patina. Lightly hairlined, as are all known specimens, this coin appears to be the third finest known of this rare, proof-only Territorial issue.
From The Pacific Rim Collection. (PCGS# 10228)
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