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    1851 Humbert Fifty Dollar, 887 Thous., MS63
    K-6, Finest Graded at PCGS

    1851 $50 RE Humbert Fifty Dollar, Reeded Edge, 887 Thous. MS63 PCGS Secure. CAC. K-6, R.4. This remarkable Humbert 887 Thous. fifty dollar gold piece, with its celebrated and iconic octagonal design, is the finest example certified at PCGS. For a large Territorial gold Humbert fifty dollar to merit (and rightly so) such a grade makes this a remarkable and noteworthy survivor of this historic early-California issue. The overwhelming majority of these large-denomination pieces were melted in the years shortly after their issuance, as more-convenient forms of commercial exchange became available (chiefly smaller-denomination gold coins from the San Francisco Mint, opened in 1854, and from private coiners who operated in California through 1855). Today, Mint State examples of the Humbert-U.S. Assay octagonal fifties are few and far between -- in our opinion, far rarer than the inflated certified populations would lead one to believe.

    To begin with, the importance of the 1851 fifty dollar gold coins can scarcely be overemphasized. Ask any advanced collector of Territorial gold to name the most significant and memorable coinage design from the early California Gold Rush period, and the Humbert-U.S. Assay Office octagonal fifty dollars will likely be the first named. For many years -- until the commemorative Panama-Pacific fifty dollar pieces of 1915 -- the 1851-52 Humbert-Assay Office fifties remained the only large octagonal gold coins struck under the auspices of the United States Mint (the Assay Office was a provisional government mint), although later California private coiners struck round fifty dollar coins (Kellogg in 1854-55 and Wass, Molitor in 1855).

    The importance of the 1851- and 1852-dated octagonal fifty dollar coins is such that even well-circulated examples (a class that includes most of the surviving population) are bid up to extremely high levels by multiple bidders eager to lay hands on these colorful mementos of the Wild West, the Gold Rush, and the famous "Forty-Niners" who rushed to seek their fortunes in the fields of gold in 1848-49.

    We attempted to build a roster of Mint State examples for the 1851 887 Thous. Humbert fifty dollars; we soon discovered that, unlike so many numismatic rarities that trade fairly frequently, these are coins that seldom change hands, particularly at the Mint State level. Attractive, problem-free Mint State representatives are so scarce -- and so iconic in their numismatic importance -- that they tend to stay with their owners for many, many years, or else move from owner to owner via private treaty.

    The present MS63 PCGS example is of the K-6 reverse variety, showing the ribbon quite close to the edges and a larger concentric circle in the center than on the K-7. As expected given the grade, a wealth of detail is apparent, often bold, on this coin. The date and AUGUSTUS HUMBERT are easily discernible, even though they are weak on most survivors, and all of the other peripheral inscriptions are strong. Well-sculpted detail appears on the eagle's wing feathers, the shield, and throughout the "engine-turned" reverse. A few scattered marks are as expected. A tiny planchet indent helps with pedigree identification, below the T in THOUS., and a series of four small reeding marks appears in the left obverse field, just below the (larger) TE in UNITED. Generous luster prevails on both sides of this piece, complementing attractive yellow-gold and tan-gold surfaces. Listed on page 392 of the 2017 Guide Book.

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 6J5M, PCGS# 10214)

    View Certification Details from PCGS

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2017
    4th-9th Wednesday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 8
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,687

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    17.5% of the successful bid (minimum $19) per lot.

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