1848 CAL. Quarter Eagle, AU58
1848 $2 1/2 CAL. AU58 NGC. In the opinion of many
numismatists, the 1848 CAL. quarter eagle should be considered the
first U.S. commemorative coin. Certainly, the coins serve to
provide a direct link to the historic days of the California Gold
Rush, and this important issue has many of the qualities of a
commemorative coin. However, unlike most commemorative issues, the
1848 CAL. quarter eagle was not sold at a premium, but distributed
as a regular-issue coin at face value, like the Statehood quarters
of recent times.
Possibly First U.S. Commemorative Coin
Only 1,389 Pieces Struck
Newly acquired, after the Mexican War of 1846, California was still under the authority of a military governor when gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in 1848. The first shipment of gold from the newly discovered fields, totaling 230 ounces, was dispatched on December 9, 1848 by Col. R.B. Mason to Secretary of War William A. Marcy. Marcy delivered the bullion to the Philadelphia Mint, where 1,389 quarter eagles were struck and counterstamped with the initials CAL. to commemorate the important events transpiring in the faraway gold fields.
Collectors have prized the 1848 CAL. quarter eagle since the earliest days of the hobby, and a specimen was sold in the Dr. Lewis Roper Sale (Moses Thomas & Sons, 2/1851), which most numismatists agree was the first all-coin auction held in this country. Recent auction sales include the magnificent MS68 ★ NGC specimen in lot 3419 of the FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2006), which realized $402,500.
The present coin is an attractive near-Mint specimen, with well-detailed design elements that show just a touch of softness on Liberty's curls and the eagle's head. A few minor contact marks are present, none worthy of individual mention. The pleasing greenish-gold fields show distinct traces of prooflike reflectivity in many areas around the devices. This coin is included in Garrett and Guth's 100 Greatest U.S. Coins. Census: 9 in 58, 18 finer (6/12).
Ex: FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2007), lot 3411, realized $57,500.(Registry values: P2) (NGC ID# 25HA, PCGS# 7749)
Weight: 4.18 grams
Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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