Marvelous and Historic 1854 Kellogg & Co.
1854 $20 Kellogg & Co. Twenty Dollar MS64 PCGS. Short
Arrows, K-1a, R.4. KELLOGG & CO is centered vertically on the
coronet. Lightly punched, curved date, 4 leaning left. Small
arrows, weak center shaft.
Twenty Dollar, K-1a, MS64
Single Finest at PCGS, Second Finest Certified
John Glover Kellogg was born in 1823 in Onondaga County, New York, and studied law. But like so many others, Kellogg apparently caught the "gold fever," joining the 80-man Cayuga Joint Stock Company, which sailed aboard the bark Belvidere for San Francisco in February 1849. Sailing south around Cape Horn, the ship arrived in October. Kellogg obtained a post with Moffat & Company. which in 1851 and 1852 struck ten and twenty dollar gold pieces. Moffat & Co. was dissolved in 1852, and a newly organized company, the United States Assay Office of Gold under principals Curtis, Perry, and Ward, took over the contract. Kellogg remained with the U.S. Assay Office of Gold. The U.S. Assay Office of Gold struck only the cumbersome fifty dollar octagonal "slugs" or quintuple eagles in 1851, but in 1852 it added ten and twenty dollar coins to the octagonal fifty dollar pieces.
After long delays and much congressional benign (some would say hostile) neglect, the official opening of the United States Branch Mint in San Francisco, California, was to become a reality in early 1854. The Assay Office of Gold, under contract to Curtis and Perry (Ward had passed away), ceased operations in December 14, 1853, anticipating the opening of the official federal facility. At that time there was an absence of any private firms coining gold in any denomination. Most of the earlier private minters, the Dubosqs, Shultzes, Dunbars, etc., had been either discredited or had become semi-official in character (as in the case of Moffat & Co. Augustus Humbert, and the U.S. Assay Office of Gold) in advance of the San Francisco Mint opening.
According to Q. David Bowers' A California Gold Rush History, when the U.S. Assay Office of Gold ceased operation, Kellogg and his partner G.F. Richter, earlier an assayer with the U.S. Assay Office of Gold, opened the Kellogg & Richter firm, doing business as Kellogg & Co. Curtis, Perry, and Augustus Humbert, former U.S. assayer, printed an advertisement in the San Francisco Herald "bearing testimony to their industry, integrity, and skill, and in commending them [Kellogg and Richter] to the confidence and patronage of the public." In January 1854 numerous leading banks petitioned Kellogg & Richter, pleading with them to produce gold coins until the Mint opened. Bowers says that "many merchants also indicated willingness to receive any coins that would be struck"--a clear indication of the goodwill that had been built up through the principals' associations with Moffat & Co., Humbert, and the U.S. Assay Office of Gold.
Kellogg & Co. began coining private-issue twenty dollar gold pieces in February that greatly resembled the federal design. Kellogg claimed that his firm could issue $20,000 worth per day.
The San Francisco Mint officially opened its doors on April 3, 1854, in the former offices of the U.S. Assay Office of Gold, which had been reconditioned. Local merchants hoped the new mint would end the sporadic but serious and chronic shortages of circulating gold in the booming California of the Gold Rush era.
It did not.
Reasons for the failure were several. Parting acids, such as nitric or sulfuric acid required to separate gold from its alloyed metals, was in chronic short supply. Supplies of copper with which to alloy gold in the proper ratio were themselves erratic, even when parting acids were available. Kagin writes that "as a result the coining business of Kellogg & Richter soon assumed very large proportions with about $6 million of the $20 pieces being issued. Under the circumstances, these new coins were almost universally accepted. Kellogg & Richter dissolved their partnership in October 1854, but Kellogg then formed Kellogg & Humbert with the former U.S. assayer. Coinage of twenty dollar pieces continued in 1855, apparently in larger quantities than in 1854, although many of the 1855s are thought to have sunk on the steamer Pacific.
Students of the series will note that the reverse die on the 1854 Kellogg twenty is the same as that on the 1853 Assay Office Moffat & Co. pieces. Kagin explains, "After the USAOG closed in 1853, Kellogg, who was employed there, probably brought the U.S. dies to his operation." Unlike some of the other Territorial gold pieces, the Kellogg & Co. pieces are not usually collected by die variety, due in large part to the lack of a reliable standard reference.
The San Francisco Mint did manage to produce more than 141,000 double eagles in its debut year, since that was its primary focus. It appears that most of those coins circulated right alongside the near-indistinguishable Kellogg & Co. twenties, helping relieve the pent-up demand for gold of all denominations. Few residents indeed of the area could afford to tie up twenty dollars forever by squirreling away a nice Uncirculated piece. Garrett and Guth note that the average grade today of the federal 1854-S double eagle is "Choice AU56" or so, but in contemporaneous San Francisco the average grade was likely 10 points lower, as many nice pieces were sunk and later recovered from the shipwreck of the Yankee Blade.
Tellingly, the average PCGS grade of the more than 100 1854 Kellogg twenties is only "Choice XF47," while the 1855 Kelloggs average "XF44." These data tell us that while a very few first-year pieces were saved, most were already lightly circulated.
It is quite miraculous, then, for Heritage to be able to offer this stunning 1854 Kellogg graded MS64 by PCGS, the single finest at that service by two grade points (11/07). NGC has certified a single specimen as MS66. Both sides of this stunning, fully lustrous reddish-tinted, yellow-gold piece are nearly entirely free of all but the smallest contact marks. For pedigree purposes a shallow lamination on Liberty's cheek and a tiny planchet flake near obverse star 5 are mentioned, but this is only in the interest of strict accuracy. A memorable, virtually unimprovable slice of American history and documentation of its numismatic heritage. Listed on page 363 of the 2008 Guide Book.
From The Madison Collection. (NGC ID# ANHY, PCGS# 10222)
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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