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    Introducing The Galt's Gulch Complete Collection of
    High-Grade S-Mint Type One Liberty Double Eagles

    1854-S $20 MS65 NGC. Discover it, and they will come.
    With apologies to Field of Dreams, the lure of gold in California exerted a far stronger attraction than any cornfield in Iowa ever could.
    After the January 1848 discovery of gold in John Sutter's millrace on the American River, hordes of "Forty-Niners" descended upon California, their heads swimming with gilded dreams of untold wealth.
    There was no way to make the journey that was free of hardship and difficulty, great expense, peril, and the threat of death.
    But the gold-seekers came nonetheless. They came from China, from Australia, from Oregon, Hawaii, Latin America and the mountains of Mexico, as well as the many Americans who came from back East. They came on foot, they came on horseback, they came by clipper ship, and more by steamship. They took railroads through 48 miles of mosquito-infested jungle across the Isthmus of Panama. They came via the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, and the Gila River Trail. They crossed the Continental Divide on wagons, on horses, on mules, a journey of 2,000 miles or more with little food and less water. They sailed around Cape Horn in yearlong voyages on stinking steamships with stale water and rotten food.
    Thousands upon thousands came, and thousands more died in the attempt. All told, perhaps 300,000 people made the journey successfully.
    Of those who came, few would fulfill their dreams of golden riches. The most successful were not those who panned, sluiced, and dredged for gold, but those who sold them supplies at exorbitant prices.
    San Francisco was the epicenter of the golden fever. The town grew from a sleepy outpost of 200 people in 1846 to a bustling boomtown of 36,000 by 1852. The need for more reliable mediums of exchange than unassayed gold dust brought in a wave of assayers and private coiners to fill the vacuum. From 1849 to 1853 only Territorial gold would be minted in California, either of a private or semiofficial character, as the first San Francisco Mint would open only in 1854, six years after the first gold discoveries.
    Heritage is pleased to present the Galt's Gulch Collection, a remarkable, high-grade complete set of Type One Liberty Head double eagles, 14 coins, all struck at the San Francisco Mint during its historic first years from 1854 through 1866. The collection is among the finest known from both technical and aesthetic perspectives, encompassing legendary rarities such as an 1861-S Paquet Reverse in AU58 and the even-rarer 1866-S No Motto in MS62, the finest certified and the single finest that we have ever offered by four grade points.
    As we wrote elsewhere, the collection encapsulates the economic, political, and demographic history of the United States during the middle decades of the 19th century. The collection starts with the birth of the San Francisco Mint in 1854 and ends with the era of Reconstruction, passing in-between with the bloody Civil War and the heyday of steamship travel.
    Besides the many attractions of the Galt's Gulch Collection per se, it is also one that, due to its immense historicity, is extensible both forward and backward in time. Its immediate predecessors would be the aforementioned Territorial gold coined in California between 1849 and 1855. Those coins would include the historic octagonal fifty dollar "ingots" or "slugs" of 1851-52 produced by the U.S. Assay Office of Gold, the first California coinage of a semiofficial character. (It is quite likely that many of those coins were melted down to make Type One S-mint twenties such as those in the Galt's Gulch Collection.) The collection is obviously capable of extending forward as well, into the challenging but short-lived Type Two twenties (1866-1876) and the long-running Type Three issues, of which San Francisco would make its last entry in 1907.
    We expect that collectors today will find the lure of gold in the Galt's Gulch Collection every bit as powerful as when the noble metal for these pieces was mined, 150 years ago.

    Historic Gem 1854-S Double Eagle
    Tied for the Finest Certified
    The First San Francisco Twenty

    Broken A. This historic 1854-S double eagle is the single finest and only Gem certified of the issue at NGC, tied with two others at PCGS as the highest graded (10/11).
    The San Francisco Mint opened on April 3, 1854, as a direct result of the historic California Gold Rush -- although it was six years late to the party. The first major discovery of California gold was made by James Marshall and Peter Wimmer on January 24, 1848, on the American River at the sawmill under construction of John Sutter. Word hit San Francisco in March by way of newspaper publisher Sam Brannan, but it took until August 1848 for the news to hit East Coast newspapers, and President James K. Polk confirmed the discovery in a Congressional address in December. Wave after wave of "Forty-Niners" would soon head westward, dreaming of golden riches.
    Those early miners brought gold dust and nuggets by the tons up from the ground and water. Barter and foreign currency were pressed into service; there simply was insufficient federal currency, pointing up the need for coiners and assayers. The gold coinage of the first few years of the Gold Rush would, however, be of a private or semiofficial character, as years of bureaucratic indifference in Washington and Philadelphia would precede the opening of the San Francisco Mint.
    That facility finally opened in a renovated building formerly owned by Moffat & Co., striking a proof 1854-S double eagle as their first gold coin, a national treasure now housed in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian. The San Francisco Mint continued the year by striking a moderate production of Type One gold dollars, a tiny smattering of quarter eagles (which are extremely rare today) and half eagles (which are even rarer).
    The emphasis in 1854, however, was on the two largest gold denominations, the eagle and double eagle. The eagle was struck to an extent exceeding 123,000 coins, while the double eagle's emission was slightly larger, more than 141,000 pieces. Most of the 1854-S double eagles circulated in the coin-starved local economy of the era; the certified survivors today average AU to Choice AU in grade, but those certified coins would be the top end of the entire population. The recovery of the S.S. Yankee Blade shipwreck, which foundered off the California coast on October 1, 1854, brought to light some 200-300 new high-grade examples.
    This Gem bears no specific provenance but shows satiny luster over clean yellow-gold surfaces that show remarkably few signs of contact. We cannot say whether this is a Yankee Blade coin or not. The obverse is punched with the Small Date logotype, as all of the S-mints; the P-mint 1854 double eagles are known with both Small and Large Date punches. The reverse shows the Broken A die, with the left side of the A's (in STATES) crossbar broken away. Many interesting die cracks traverse the reverse at the peripheries, including one place at the top-left serif of the first T in TWENTY where three die cracks intersect. The large S mintmark touches the eagle.
    This remarkable example of the first-year S-mint double eagle issue introduces an equally remarkable collection of Type One S-mint double eagles spanning the years 1854-S through 1866-S, including the 1861-S Paquet issue -- a fitting start to this Platinum Night offering.
    From The Galt's Gulch Collection.(Registry values: N7079) (NGC ID# 268U, PCGS# 8913)

    Weight: 33.44 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    View all of [The Galt's Gulch Collection ]

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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2012
    4th-8th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 12
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