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    1852 Assay Office Octagonal Fifty, MS60
    900 Thous., K-14

    1852 $50 Assay Office Fifty Dollar, 900 Thous. MS60 NGC. K-14, R.5. The 1852-dated octagonal U.S. Assay Office fifty dollar slugs with 900 fineness, at High R.5 (31-45 examples surviving), are considerably rarer than the 887 fineness (K-13) pieces, which are ranked Low R.5 (61-75 existing today). The difference in rarity may be explained by the federal 900 fineness standard for the later pieces. In late September 1852 the Treasury Department wrote to the collector of customs duties in San Francisco, in effect enjoining him from collecting duties in any coinage other than federal gold pieces and a limited number of foreign issues of specified values, as set forth in two coinage laws passed in 1834.

    This had the unfortunate effect of making illegal the previous issues fifty dollar octagonal (and other) issues of 880, 884, and 887 fineness produced under the Augustus Humbert/U.S. Assay Office aegis.

    Bowers writes in A California Gold Rush History:

    "On October 13, 1852, Augustus Humbert printed an explanation in the San Francisco Herald. The U.S. Assay Office of Gold coins were of the finenesses of 880, 884, or 887 thousandths, as these figures were about the average quality of raw gold. He noted that coins with a lower degree of fineness would have a greater total weight of metal so that they would possess full intrinsic value equal to coins from the United States Mint. Humbert went on to say that gold received in more recent times was higher in fineness than earlier deposits, so that it would be possible from that point forward to adhere to the Mint standard of 900 thousandths fine, with the remaining alloy being silver as originally found in connection with the gold."

    Although there may have been a few 1852-dated pieces minted in early 1853, the narrow production window for the 900 fine pieces effectively closed soon thereafter, accounting for the noticeable rarity difference between this K-14 variety and the K-13 887 fine coins.

    This Mint State piece appears actually finer than a technical Uncirculated grade, and in any case there are many aesthetic merits over and above. Note how well detailed the eagle's wings and neck feathers, the claws and arrows, and the shield stripes are. Notice the bold beaded border encircling the obverse, and the clarity and strength of UNITED STATES ASSAY OFFICE OF GOLD SAN FRANCISCO CALIFORNIA all the way around. The machine-turned reverse is equally well-detailed. The coloration is a marvelous blend of yellow-gold, mellowing to copper and red-orange hues in numerous areas. A few trivial contact marks and bumps near the edges account for the grade, but this historic coin will appeal to an especially broad range of collectors. Listed on page 404 of the 2021 Guide Book. Census: 2 in 60, 7 finer (6/20).
    Selections From The Casady Collection.

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# ANHH, PCGS# 10019)

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

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2020
    3rd-9th Monday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 19
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 649

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