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    1849 Pacific Company Gold Dollar, MS61
    The Finest of Only Three Examples Known

    1849 G$1 Pacific Company Gold Dollar MS61 NGC. As late as 1988 it was widely publicized, and generally believed, that no Pacific Company dollars struck in gold existed. In his landmark reference published that year, Walter Breen stated: "Of the $1, only silver and tin trial pieces survive (there is no proof any gold strikings were ever made) ..." This is a curious statement (as many of Breen's statements are today after more extensive examination) as his previous employer, Wayte Raymond, had published a listing in 1931 along with a photo of a Pacific Company gold dollar in Private Gold Coins Struck in the United States, 1830-1861.

    The most complete story of this coin and its discovery as a gold coin, rather than a silver-gilt piece, is contained in a press release from NGC on August 15, 2002, after Stuart Levine recognized this piece as a gold coin from examining a test cut appearing on the edge. In an extended quote from NGC and Levine, the background and recently discovered status of this piece were discussed.

    "The newly confirmed specimen appeared as Lot 943 in The Rarities Sale, ... by Bowers & Merena Galleries, held July 31, 2002. It was therein described as silver-gilt, and no data was provided on the coin's specifics. The specimen had previously been part of the vast holdings of famed collector/hoarder Virgil M. Brand, who acquired it from a Ben Green auction of August, 1910. It was last sold publicly in 1984 in Bowers & Merena Galleries' sale of the Virgil M. Brand Collection and had resided within the Jay Roe Collection of pioneer gold coins until appearing at auction last month. As this newly confirmed gold specimen is undamaged aside from a small test mark on its obverse rim, it is easily the finer of the two examples known.
    "Acting on his suspicion that this was, in fact, an actual gold striking, dealer Stuart Levine bid liberally and secured the lot after fierce competition with a telephone bidder. Levine then submitted the coin to NGC, requesting that it be tested in a non-destructive manner to determine its actual composition. This proved to be .722 gold, .168 silver and .110 copper, as compared to the federal standard of .900 gold and .100 silver and copper. This low gold fineness is not unusual with pioneer coins. The bullion was often coined as found, the minters compensating for any discrepancy by increasing the coin's weight. For example, the gold dollars minted by the Bechtler Family in North Carolina ranged in weight from 30 grains down to 27 grains. Indeed, this specimen weighs 29.56 grains, noticeably heavier than the U.S. Mint standard of 25.80 grains."

    The lack of gold of this Pacific Company gold dollar is a story that is familiar to the underweight (and subsequently devalued and discredited) Mormon coinage. The concept of "relative fineness," as defined by Sheridan L. McGarry in his 1950 Numismatist articles on Mormon gold coins and currency, rests on the assumption of the purity of California gold. In the case of the Pacific Company gold dollar, the native gold used in the coin obviously did not contain enough gold to bring it to a dollar in value, thus leading to the increased weight of 29.56 grains. Another of the three Pacific Company gold dollars, found with a metal detector in 1999, has been metallurgically analyzed. That coin was found to contain 64.5 % gold, 16.1% silver, 8.9% copper, 5.3% silicon, 4.0% aluminum, and 1.1% iron. Apparently, different locations of the native ore accounts for the differing variations in composition between that piece and the current one.

    A surprising amount of background information exists on the Pacific Company, a company that was organized to strike coins needed in Gold Rush era California. Several pages are devoted to the background of Pacific Company and its subsequent owners, Frederick D. Kohler and David C. Broderick, in Edgar Adams' volume Private Gold Coinage of California (1912). A brief version of the history of the company was included in the NGC press release from 2002:

    "Pacific Company was a joint partnership of 38 individuals formed in January of 1849. Their goal was to reach California with the prospect of coining the gold bullion then in such abundance. Arriving in San Francisco September 16, the company disbanded before ever using the dies they'd commissioned in the East. Instead, the dies evidently were sold to the established assaying firm of Broderick & Kohler in San Francisco, which then produced eagles and half eagles for general circulation. When the coins proved to be worth less than their face value, recipients refused to take them except at steep discounts. Thus discredited, nearly the entire coinage was melted within just a few years, accounting for the great rarity of these issues."

    This example is not only the finest, but also the only undamaged survivor. The surfaces are bright and faintly golden; it is easy to see how this and other Pacific Company gold dollars were mistaken for silver-gilt pieces in the past. The strike details are exceptionally strong on each side, and only the slightest high-point softness can be seen on the reverse. There is an interesting die crack on the left portion of the reverse, an indication that many more gold dollars were produced by Pacific Company before attrition through melting eliminated almost the entire production run. The test cut is located at 4 o'clock on the obverse rim, and as noted by Stuart Levine in 2002, shows no variation in color from the remainder of the coin. Today only three gold dollars are known to have survived of Pacific Company. The following is the most complete roster we have been able to compile of each example.

    Roster of Pacific Company Gold Dollars
    1. MS61 NGC. Ben Green Auction (8/1910); Virgil Brand, purchased in 8/1910 (this appears to be a private sale not an auction, Brand Journal number 54157); Great American Collection (J.C. Morgenthau, 10/1933), lot 275, bought in; Brand Estate - Armin Brand - Jane Brand Allen; Virgil Brand Collection, Part II (Bowers and Merena, 6/1984), lot 1545; Jay Roe Collection; Rarities Sale (Bowers & Merena, 7/2002), lot 943; Stuart Levine; the present consignor. The present example.
    2. Fine 12 Soldered. Located by detectorist, Jerold Reinford, in New Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (June 1999); Paul S. Mory Collection (Bowers and Merena, 6/2000), lot 1041; American Numismatic Rarities (8/2006), lot 1128.
    3. Holed. H. O. Granberg (1914 ANS Exhibition); Newcomer; Mehl (circa 1931); Charles Williams (Numismatic Galleries 1951 FPL); possibly to Lammot duPont; Willis duPont, and stolen in 1967.
    From The Riverboat Collection. (NGC ID# ANGB, PCGS# 45435)

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

    View all of [The Riverboat Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2014
    23rd-27th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 12
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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