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    1852 Moffat & Co. Close Date Ten Dollar, MS60
    Finest Known Example By Far
    Very Rare Close Date Variety

    1852 $10 Moffat & Co. Close Date Ten Dollar MS60 NGC. K-8, R.6. Also known as Narrow Date or Close, Even Date. The San Francisco firm of Moffat & Co. opened an assay office in that city in June 1849, according to a June 21 advertisement in the Alta California newspaper. The firm's partners, John L. Moffat, Samuel H. Ward, Joseph R. Curtis, and P.H. Perry, touted that they "have erected suitable furnaces, and are provided with all the necessary apparatus and the most ample facilities for Smelting and Assaying Gold Dust." The ad further promised "the highest market price paid for Gold Dust." In late June or early July the company struck rectangular gold ingots of varying sizes and values, ranging from $9.43 to $264, due to the lack of circulating gold coinage. Today three sizes are known: $9.43 and $14.25 ingots, each unique and in the Smithsonian Institution, and the extremely rare $16 ingots. Shortly afterward, likely by September 1849, Moffat & Co. struck five and ten dollar gold coins bearing that date.

    Moffat & Co. was far from alone in sensing a market opportunity. Other assayers who set up shop and struck coins in California in 1849 included Norris, Gregg & Norris; Miners' Bank; J.S. Ormsby (in Sacramento); and, possibly, the Pacific Company.

    Aside from Moffat & Co., none of this first wave of California assayers-coiners survived to their second year due to newspaper accounts that, correctly or not, reported that their products contained less gold than represented. A second wave of short-lived businesses sprang up in 1850 and did little better; their products, if accepted, were often steeply discounted. Unlike those companies, Moffat & Co.'s reputation was never seriously questioned, and their ingots and coinage passed at par.

    Moffat & Co. and its successors, the United States Assay Office of Gold under Curtis, Perry, and Ward (after Moffat retired in February 1852), and Curtis and Perry (after Ward's death), continuously enlarged, evolving into what would become, in 1854, the United States Branch Mint at San Francisco.

    The curious 1852 Moffat & Co. ten dollar coins would be the last appearing with the Moffat brand, struck in the Wide Date and Close Date varieties. They were an emergency issue struck at a time when Washington bureaucrats had finally given permission for the firm to strike gold coins in denominations smaller than the bulky octagonal fifty dollar pieces -- only to revoke that permission the following day. Both communications arrived in mid-January 1852. The response on the part of Moffat & Co. was the production of the Moffat-branded ten dollar coins in the same month, bearing no identification tying them to official United States Assayer Augustus Humbert or the U.S. Assay Office of Gold.

    The 1852 ten dollar coins bear a significantly different design from the 1849 Moffat pieces, and they show clear signs of being hastily produced. The obverse is similar to the federal-style 1849 coins, but the reverse bears an 880 THOUS: fineness claim along with 264 GRS. CALIFORNIA GOLD and TEN D. beneath the familiar eagle, scroll, and rock device. The date is evenly spaced on the obverse, but the 2 is noticeably lower than the other digits. The lettering in TEN D. is askew, particularly the last letter which is tilted far backward. RNIA is lower than CALIFO.

    This 1852 Close Date example is certified MS60 by NGC, the sole finest example graded at NGC and PCGS of this very rare variety; the finest at PCGS are two Close Date coins (or one coin twice) in AU50 (2/14). Full mint luster appears on medium orange-gold surfaces, which show extensive mostly light marks along with a few larger ones, accounting for the grade. The strike is quite sharp on Liberty's hair, the stars, and the cords of the hair bun, despite the primitive die-work. Some reflective, semiprooflike luster appears in the recesses below MOFFAT & CO. and underneath the forecurls. A similar effect appears on the reverse around some of the peripheral letters, and again the strike is impressively well-detailed.

    It has been nearly four years since we offered an example of this very rare variety in any grade; the last piece was a VF30 PCGS example. Many survivors of this issue occur with various surface problems, and those certified at NGC and PCGS average a bit more than XF40. These are coins that circulated extensively, befitting the circumstances of their creation. As the sole finest Close Date Moffat ten certified, this piece represents an important bidding opportunity for Territorial gold specialists. Listed on page 382 of the 2014 Guide Book.
    From The Riverboat Collection. (NGC ID# ANJ9, PCGS# 10252)

    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: 10
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,408

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