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    1853 .900 Thous. Assay Office Ten Dollar, Low R.6, MS63
    Tied for Finest Certified

    1853 $10 Assay Office Ten Dollar, 900 Thous. MS63 PCGS. K-16, Low R.6. According to Bowers' A California Gold Rush History, in January 1852 more than 50 San Francisco merchants petitioned Moffat & Company to issue $300,000 worth of smaller-denomination coins from five dollars to 20 dollars to alleviate the shortage of such pieces in circulation. On Feb. 12 the newspaper Daily Alta California carried this news:
    "Moffat & Co. take great pleasure in announcing to the public that they have received by the mail of yesterday instructions from the Treasury Department authorizing the issue from the United States Assay Office of ingots of the denomination of ten and twenty dollars, and that they are prepared to issue the same this day."
    The new ten dollar and twenty dollar coins of 1852, as well as the fifty dollar octagonal slugs, bore the imprint AUGUSTUS HUMBERT UNITED STATES ASSAYER OF GOLD CALIFORNIA. The inscription was changed in 1853 to UNITED STATES ASSAY OFFICE OF GOLD. The Assay Office also installed new high-speed machinery that was comparable to that of the Philadelphia Mint, according to accounts of the time.
    While the 1853 twenty dollar Assay Office pieces with .900 THOUS. are common at R.2, the 1853 ten dollar pieces with .900 THOUS. are listed as Low R.6, meaning that only 25-30 specimens are known to exist. The reason for this is "disguised in plain sight" in the Kagin reference, Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States (p. 154). For large amounts (in excess of 8,000 pennyweights, or 400 troy ounces) the Assay Office charged a premium of 1.5% for coinage of twenty dollar pieces, compared to 2.0% for ten dollar pieces. In other words, those who submitted gold for coinage would receive a half-percent less in total coin if they requested ten dollar pieces instead of twenties--for obvious reasons, something that most people were obviously reluctant to do. (The percentages were slightly more, but comparable for smaller quantities.)
    A quick glance at the combined NGC/PCGS population totals confirms the thesis: While there are 478 U.S. Assay Office 1853 .900 THOUS. twenties certified in all grades, there are only 41 examples of the ten dollar--an order of magnitude of difference, and one that (factoring in duplications) neatly coincides with the Low R.6 rarity rating.
    The present example is tied with two other pieces as the finest graded of the issue at PCGS, and with a single MS63 piece at NGC (12/07). Radiant mint luster flows from the elegant, mellow peach-gold surfaces, which are faintly prooflike and offer much eye appeal. There are no singular abrasions on this rare and important example of Territorial gold, listed on page 355 of the 2008 Guide Book.

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# ANHB, PCGS# 10007)

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

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2008
    9th-12th Wednesday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 6
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 3,155

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