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    1853 Assay Office Twenty Dollar, K-18
    A Remarkable, Fully Struck Gem

    1853 $20 Assay Office Twenty Dollar, 900 Thous. MS65 NGC. K-18, R.2. Enrico Caruso (1878-1921), the legendary Italian tenor and star of the Metropolitan Opera, was in San Francisco on April 12, 1906, having performed in Carmen the night before the Great Earthquake struck just after 5 a.m. Caruso wrote that the rocking of his hotel room made him think he was again on an ocean steamship, on his way back to his native Italy. Leaving his hotel room toting an autographed picture of President Theodore Roosevelt, Caruso and his valet first tried to exit the city by boat, then by train. Caruso swore never to return. All of the Metropolitan Opera road company's costumes and sets were destroyed in the ensuing fires.
    Caruso kept his vow and never came back to San Francisco.
    Also destroyed in the 1906 conflagration were some 30 obverse and reverse dies used to strike 2.5 million examples of the 1853 Assay Office twenty dollar gold pieces, K-18, between March and October 1853. The K-18 coins are all .900 fineness over .880, but the .880 fades from the obverse hub and is indistinguishable on many pieces. The pieces exist because of an August 1852 requirement that all U.S. Assay Office gold coins accepted for customs collections be only .900 fineness and not lower. Fortunately, the Assay Office soon afterward obtained high-speed coinage presses that enabled them to turn out $720,000 in twenty dollar gold pieces daily, a capacity approaching that of the Philadelphia Mint.
    The large number of coins produced in a short time on good equipment is responsible for survivors today such as this remarkable Gem example, among the finest certified at either NGC or PCGS. It is difficult to know where to begin in describing a coin of such amazing quality. Full mint luster rolls around each side of this piece, with bright greenish-gold color. There are no mentionable marks and the strike is full throughout, even in the center of the obverse, which shows complete claws on the eagle and full details on the shield top. Listed on page 371 of the 2012 Guide Book. Census: 5 in 65, 0 finer (12/11). (NGC ID# ANHD, PCGS# 10013)

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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2012
    2nd-5th Thursday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 8
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 3,182

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