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    1850 Baldwin & Co. Five Dollar Gold Piece, MS61
    Tied for Finest Certified at PCGS

    1850 $5 Baldwin Five Dollar MS61 PCGS. K-2, R.5+. George Baldwin and Thomas Holman established a jewelry and watchmaking concern on Clay Street in San Francisco in 1849. Shortly afterward, they purchased F.D. Kohler's profitable coining operation, as he was preparing for his new position as assayer for the newly established California State Assay Office. Baldwin & Co. began issuing coins in five, ten, and twenty dollar denominations, which were initially well-received by merchants and bankers like Dunbar's Banking and Exchange Office and Tucker & Reeve, jewelers. According to Donald Kagin, Albert Kuner engraved the dies for the Baldwin coinage.

    Henry Chapman gave a good description of the 1850 Baldwin & Co. five dollar gold piece, designated as the K-2 variety in Kagin's Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States, in lot 1862 of his catalog of the Matthew Stickney Collection (Chapman, 6/1907):

    "1850 $5. Head of Liberty with BALDWIN & CO., around 13 stars, below 1850. R. Eagle with olive branch in right talon, three arrows in left talon. S. M. V. (Standard Mint Value) CALIFORNIA GOLD, below FIVE DOL. Border beaded, edge milled. Very fine. Excessively rare, probably only about five known. See plate."

    Unfortunately, Baldwin's coins were found to contain less than face value in gold when assayed by Augustus Humbert at the United States Assay Office in March of 1851. The five dollar pieces had an average intrinsic value of $4.91 according to Humbert's findings. The assay was undertaken at the request of journalist James King of William, who was also a rival of Baldwin & Co. in the private coinage business and obviously had an axe to grind in the affair. Humbert himself was not a disinterested party, as Baldwin & Co. was the only private mint to nearly match the output of the Assay Office in its most productive years, 1850 and 1851. Baldwin claimed there was a plot by competitors to discredit his coins, and a later assay at the Philadelphia Mint was much more favorable in its findings, but there was an immediate backlash in the local press, and the public lost all confidence in the Baldwin & Co. coinage. Baldwin was forced to flee the territory in the face of this public outrage, and greedy merchants only accepted his coins at a steep discount, to be profitably turned in for recoinage at the Assay Office. By December of 1851, few Baldwin & Co. coins were still in circulation.

    Although the Baldwin & Co. five dollar gold piece is not as elusive today as it was in Henry Chapman's time, it is still quite rare. In fact, true Uncirculated examples are extremely rare, with less than a handful known. PCGS and NGC list a combined total of 29 coins in their population tables, including an unknown number of resubmissions and crossovers. Territorial enthusiasts prize the Baldwin & Co. coins in all grades and conditions, and will no doubt seize this exceptional opportunity.

    The present coin is an attractive MS61 example, with vivid orange-gold surfaces. Kagin notes this color indicates the presence of copper alloy in the native California gold. The design elements are sharply detailed and an often-seen die crack runs through the letters MV and the wingtip on the reverse. Some specimens of the K-2 variety show a heavy die break and cud on the obverse rim at star 12, but this coin was struck before that crack developed. The surfaces show some effects of die rust, in the form of tiny circular lumps on the fields, especially on the upper reverse. A number of minor contact marks are evident on the pleasing Prooflike surfaces, but none are large or distracting individually. The overall presentation is most attractive for this rare Territorial gold issue, which is tied with one other coin for finest certified at PCGS. Listed on page 387 of the 2014 Guide Book. Population: 2 in 61, 0 finer (3/14).
    From The Riverboat Collection. (NGC ID# ANHJ, PCGS# 10025)

    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
    Page Views: 1,451

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