Description

    Historic 1855 Wass Molitor
    Fifty Dollar, K-9, R.5, VF30

    1855 $50 Wass Molitor Fifty Dollar VF30 PCGS. K-9, R.5. Donald Kagin's introduction to Chapter 7 of Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States, a chapter titled "The Third Series of Private Gold Coins, 1852-56," aptly sums up the political and economic circumstances that led to the production of this Wass, Molitor fifty dollar gold piece and its companions:

    "During the period immediately following the closing of the United States Assay Office on December 14, 1853, and prior to the commencement of mint operations the following April, there was no government mint in operation in California. Private coinage also had ceased by December and many of these (Moffat & Co.) coins had been melted or shipped out of the country. These factors caused yet another monetary stringency.
    "The long refusal of the Secretary of the Treasury to grant permission to the United States Assay Office to issue denominations of less than $50 had resulted in a continued shortage of lower denomination coins in California. Consequently, the California merchants were losing a great deal of money through the stifling of commercial transactions.
    "On January 14, 1854, a group of bankers and merchants petitioned the assay office of Kellogg & Richter to coin gold, and on February 9th, Kellogg began issuing $20 gold pieces. It is rather ironic that one of the men to petition coiner Kellogg was none other than James King of William!"


    James King of William and U.S. Assayer Augustus Humbert had, of course, been responsible for the unfair discrediting in 1851 of several early private coiners, to their own gain. Kagin goes on to say that there was also a shortage of large-denomination coins, a void that Kellogg & Co. and Wass Molitor & Co. endeavored to fill. The Kellogg pieces never got beyond the experimental stage, but "thousands of Wass, Molitor & Co. $50 pieces were circulated the year after the United States Mint [at San Francisco] was established."
    The present Wass Molitor piece, certified VF30 in a green-label PCGS holder, is one of those pieces that circulated extensively. The canary-yellow surfaces, however, show no singular impairments, just wear consistent with the grade and many abrasions, mostly on the small side, consistent with a good spate in commerce, likely in and around San Francisco for a year or two before being snatched out of circulation. Despite the 30 points of wear, this piece has lots of eye appeal and muted luster remaining. Listed on page 377 of the 2011 Guide Book. (NGC ID# ANJU, PCGS# 10363)


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

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    Auction Dates
    Apr-May, 2011
    27th-1st Wednesday-Sunday
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