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    1851 Baldwin & Co. Twenty Dollar, XF45
    Only Four Examples Traced
    Finest Certified at PCGS, Ex: Garrett

    1851 $20 Baldwin Twenty Dollar XF45 PCGS. K-5, High R.7. The 1851 Baldwin & Co. twenty dollar gold piece is a classic rarity in the Territorial gold series, with only four examples known to present-day collectors. Two coins are held in institutional collections, making the issue even more challenging. This attractive Choice Extremely Fine example is tied with a single coin at NGC for finest-known honors and claims an illustrious pedigree to the Garrett Collection, one of the finest numismatic gatherings of all time. The present consignor had the option of choosing between both certified XF45 examples and found the Garrett coin more pleasing and original. Heritage Auctions has never handled a Baldwin & Co. $20 before, and the last public offering we can find was the sale of this identical coin in the Garrett Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 3/1980), more than 34 years ago.

    The firm of Baldwin & Co. was owned and operated by George C. Baldwin and Thomas S. Holman, who ran a jewelry and watchmaking concern before entering the coin business. They purchased F.D. Kohler & Co.'s coining operation on March 15, 1850 and proceeded to strike large numbers of coins in five, ten, and twenty dollar denominations until April of 1851. Edgar Adams states the dies for the Baldwin coinage were engraved by Albert Kuner. Despite the large number of private gold coiners in the Gold Rush era, only the United States Assay Office minted more coins than Baldwin & Co. and, during some periods, Baldwin's output even topped theirs. Adams cites the period from January 1 to March 31, 1851, during which Baldwin & Co. struck $590,000 face value of gold coins against $530,000 for the Assay Office.

    Unfortunately, the Baldwin & Co. coins were found to be severely underweight when assayed by Augustus Humbert in 1851. The Baldwin & Co. $20 had an intrinsic value of just $19.40. Public outrage was widespread and The Pacific News reported that a citizen who redeemed two Baldwin & Co. $20 coins at the office of Baldwin & Co. itself received only 38 dollars in silver in return. Baldwin tried to allay the suspicions of the general public by citing a more favorable assay by Albert Kuner and claiming that rivals like Moffat & Co. were trying to discredit him, but the damage was irreversible. On April 17, 1851, The Pacific News reported Baldwin had fled the state on the steamer S.S. Panama, rather than face the consequences of the "swindle." The great majority of the Baldwin & Co. coins were subsequently melted and the twenty dollar denomination is especially rare today.

    The 1851 Baldwin & Co. $20 was the first California gold issue to feature the twenty dollar denomination, but the Mormons had issued a twenty dollar piece in 1849 and other private minters would soon follow suit. The first auction appearance of an 1851 Baldwin & Co. $20 gold piece we can find was in lot 297A of the Auction Sale (New York Coin & Stamp, 4/1904):

    "1851 Baldwin & C on coronet; head of Liberty to left; 13 stars. Rev. eagle with three arrows and olive branch; S.M.V. CALIFORNIA GOLD. TWENTY D.; few small nicks, very fine impression, with sharp stars. The only specimen of this exceedingly rare coin we have ever seen, and we have been looking for them for the past 30 years."

    The catalog was not plated, but a line drawing of the coin was displayed on the front cover. The lot description notes the symbols & C following BALDWIN on the coronet, a feature not described by Edgar Adams and apparently not visible on worn examples of the Baldwin & Co. $20. Kuner made an error in the size of letter punches he used when he engraved the dies, and the final part of CO. was left off because it did not fit. The C tends to get lost in the hairlines at a casual glance, as well. The & C is visible on the present coin and the rest of the lot description is consistent with its general appearance, but a check of the Virgil Brand Journals at the ANS Library reveals that Virgil Brand purchased the lot for $385.

    The first auction appearance of the present coin that we can determine with any degree of certainty is in lot 61 of the Arthur Nygren Collection (Henry Chapman, 4/1924):

    "1851 $20. Head of Liberty left, with Baldwin & C on diadem, below 1851: around 13 stars. R. S.M.V. CALIFORNIA GOLD TWENTY D. Displayed eagle with olive branch in right talon, and three arrows in left. Edge milled. Very fine. Slight bruise on edge to right of date but so small as to be hardly noticeable. Of the greatest rarity, one of the gems of this great collection. This example is so fine that it supplies part of the inscription on the diadem which Mr. Adams in his admirable book on these coins omits, viz: & C after BALDWIN on diadem - see his NO. 43, page 75 second line. Plate."

    The lot was purchased by John Work Garrett for $2,525, the highest total for any lot in the sale (thanks to P. Scott Rubin for the preceding information). Garrett was a connoisseur, with an eye for quality as well as rarity, and this piece was a highlight of his collection. The Garrett holdings were finally dispersed in a series of four auctions held by Bowers and Ruddy from 1979-1981, with this coin selling in Part II of the series for $110,000. The lot description included the following:

    " ... the Baldwin & Co. $20 is one of the greatest of all territorial rarities and is one of the most important issues in the present offering. The quality for the issue is superb. A landmark coin which will be forever remembered by specialists in the California gold series."

    We heartily agree with the cataloger of the Garrett Collection regarding the quality and importance of this coin. The design elements of this piece were strongly impressed in most areas, with just a touch of softness on the central reverse. The devices show only slight wear and retain much interior design detail. The vivid antique-gold surfaces are lightly marked and traces of mint luster are evident in protected areas; a few hints of turquoise and amber patina visit the borders. This coin is encapsulated in an older PCGS green label holder. For the Territorial gold specialist, this lot represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Listed on page 388 of the 2014 Guide Book.

    Roster of 1851 Baldwin Twenty Dollar Gold Pieces
    1. MS61, per numismatist David McCarthy. Henry Clifford; Bank of California.
    2. AU55, per numismatist David McCarthy. Charles M. Williams; possibly Clinton Hester; Thomas G. Melish Collection (Abe Kosoff, 4/1956), lot 2331; Smith & Sons; Josiah K. Lilly; Smithsonian Institution.
    3. XF45 PCGS. Arthur C. Nygren Collection (Henry Chapman, 4/1924), lot 61, realized $2,525, the highest price in the sale; John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University; Garrett Collection, Part II (Bowers and Ruddy, 3/1980), lot 881, realized $110,000; the present coin.
    4. XF45 NGC. H.O. Granberg, exhibited at the 1914 ANS Exhibition; Waldo Newcomer, illustrated in Mehl's Newcomer plates; unknown intermediaries, possibly "Col." E.H.R. Green; Henry Clifford; Donald Kagin; Paul Padget; Stuart Levine and Donald Kagin; Private Collection. Plate coin in Kagin's Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States and Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. This coin is the XF45 example in the NGC Census Report.

    Additional Appearances
    A. Auction Sale (New York Coin & Stamp, 4/1904), lot 297A: Virgil Brand (Journal number 27320), per Wayne Burt and Saul Teichman.
    B. Edgar Adams refers to a specimen sold by Thomas Elder in 1909, but we are unable to locate this sale.
    C. DeWitt Smith; Virgil Brand in 1908 (Journal number 47370), per Wayne Burt and Saul Teichman.
    D. An example offered by E.M. Katten, of New Orleans, Louisiana in the May 1937 edition of The Numismatist, per Wayne Burt and Saul Teichman.
    From The Riverboat Collection. (NGC ID# ANHM, PCGS# 10034)

    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: 12,879

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