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    Description

    1848 CAL. Quarter Eagle, MS62+
    First U.S. Commemorative Coin
    Historically Important Gold Rush Souvenir

    1848 $2 1/2 CAL. MS62+ PCGS. CAC. Ex: Simpson. In late January 1848 (different sources list the 24th or the 25th among others), James Wilson Marshall discovered a few flecks of gold at the construction site for a sawmill, known today as "Sutter's Mill," on the American River in California. This discovery sparked one of the greatest migrations in the history of this country, the California Gold Rush. By June 1848, a representative of the U.S. Army, which governed California at the time, had traveled to the site to confirm the discovery. The "discovery piece" of gold (now in the Smithsonian) and other samples--more than 230 ounces in all--were prepared by California's military governor Richard Mason, packed into a now-legendary tea caddy, and sent with Lieutenant Lucien Loeser on a journey to Washington, D.C. The lieutenant telegraphed his colonel's report to the capital from New Orleans, and so word of California gold arrived before the actual gold did.

    The gold itself arrived in Washington in early December. It was sent on to Philadelphia on December 8 with orders to transform it into quarter eagles to commemorate the important events taking place on the other side of the continent. Secretary of War William Marcy wrote:

    "As many may desire to procure specimens of coin made of the California gold, by exchanging other coin for it, I would suggest that it be made into quarter eagles with a distinguishing mark on each..."



    The all-important CAL. punch had to be specially made, with extended serifs and rounded bottoms on the letters to form a semi-circular arc. An exchange of letters between Marcy and Mint Director Robert Patterson in early January suggests the CAL quarter eagles were actually struck early in 1849, when a mintage of 1,389 pieces was achieved. Two gold medals were also made, one for General Winfield Scott and the other for President-Elect Zachary Taylor, to honor their service in the Mexican War.

    This Plus-graded MS62 survivor was clearly saved from the time of issue and kept more-or-less carefully ever since. A few wispy pinscratches and abrasions appear in the fields, but the watery yellow-gold luster is completely intact and some prooflike reflectivity is evident in the fields. Both the main devices and the CAL. stamp are boldly impressed, with the CAL. counterstamp placed lower and farther left than on any other example we have seen (thanks to researcher Karl Moulton for pointing this out). Garrett and Guth explain that the CAL. stamp was impressed while the coin rested on the die; explaining the lack of distortion on the obverse, since the gold would only be pressed against the die and not allowed to spread. This coin may cast some doubt on that theory, as the unusual placement of the counterstamp seems to have flattened the top of the numerals in the date. Slight doubling shows on the reverse legend and devices, especially obvious on the D in the denomination. This doubling does not show on all examples, suggesting more than one reverse die may have been used to strike the issue. This spectacular coin truly exemplifies the description of money as "history in your hands." Population: 8 in 62 (1 in 62+), 15 finer. CAC: 1 in 62, 2 finer (11/20).
    Ex: Boston Signature (Heritage, 8/2010), lot 3421; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2011), lot 5026.(Registry values: P2)

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 25HA, PCGS# 7749)

    Weight: 4.18 grams

    Metal: 90% Gold, 10% Copper


    View all of [Important Selections from The Bob R. Simpson Collection, Part III ]

    View Certification Details from PCGS

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