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    K-5 1851 Humbert Fifty, 880 Thous., Reeded Edge
    Target Reverse, Appealing Near-Mint State 'Slug'

    1851 $50 RE Humbert Fifty Dollar, 880 Thous. AU58 NGC. Reeded Edge, Target Reverse, K-5, Low R.5. This is the first of the Reeded Edge varieties listed in the Kagin 1981 reference. The obverse legend, AUGUSTUS HUMBERT UNITED STATES ASSAYER OF GOLD CALIFORNIA 1851, which was (obviously) on the edge of the Lettered Edge varieties, now is outside the inner circle on the obverse, running near the eight-sided edge. The DC for dollars and cents of the Lettered Edge varieties has been replaced by the denomination FIFTY DOLLS., and the fineness of 880 (THOUS.) is no longer incused into the coin by hand-stamping; rather, it is now incused into the die. The reverse shows a large "target" in the center, composed of concentric circles that are much larger than on the Lettered Edge reverse.
    The Moffat & Co. principals who were charged with turning out the U.S. Assay Office coins introduced numerous improvements during the course of their three-year run of producing gold coinage in denominations of fifty dollars, ten dollars and twenty dollars (these last two denominations started in 1852). On July 25, 1851, a writer for Alta California wrote in part, as excerpted from Bowers' A California Gold Rush History:

    More large fish [$50 coins] are to be produced and sent forth through our channels of trade to put the small fry to flight in all directions. The machinery at the slug mill of Moffat & Co. has at last been repaired, and re-commenced operations yesterday. The monstrous fifty-dollar chunks are becoming a decided nuisance, unless privately taken in large quantities.
    "It is fast becoming one of the greatest favors you could ask of a storekeeper to accommodate you by changing one of them, such is their sluggishness [pun intended?] on the market. We hear, in fact, of varying instances where various individuals have purchased a pair of gloves or some other small article for which they have no earthly use, merely for the purpose of getting one of these pieces changed."

    Bowers further reports that the Prices Current noted that the Assay Office had occasionally achieved a production rate of 2,000 ingots or slugs per day, the equivalent of $100,000 daily in gold dust coined (or private coinage remelted and recoined). Despite the unpopularity of the large and heavy fifty dollar pieces, they were made essential by the scarcity of smaller denominations, which were driven out of circulation by accusations of low melt values--this despite the fact that even federal gold coins were also worth less in melt value than their face value.
    Despite their high numbers in 1851, today few fifty dollar slugs are known regardless of variety. Most of them were likely shipped overseas and remelted into gold bars of standard fineness soon after coinage. Greenish-gold, amber-gold, and yellow-gold alternate on the surfaces of this lightly circulated piece which, while it shows a few grade-consistent ticks, is equally consistent in its appeal and freedom from singular distractions. Listed on page 353 of the 2008 Guide Book.
    From The Pacific Rim Collection.

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 6J5L, PCGS# 10211)

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

    View all of [The Pacific Rim Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2007
    8th-10th Wednesday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 11
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,559

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