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    Description

    1853 Moffat & Co. Twenty Dollar, MS62
    Condition Census K-19 Example
    Final Emergency Issue

    1853 $20 Moffat & Co. MS62 PCGS. K-19, High R.5. Moffat & Co. was a premier coiner and assayer in San Francisco during the height of the California Gold Rush. John L. Moffat set sail for California from New York aboard the Guilford in February 1849, mere months after James Marshall discovered his first gold nuggets at John Sutter's fort, New Helvetia, in January 1848. The New York Tribune wrote on February 15, 1849 (as quoted in Dan Owens' California Coiners and Assayers):

    "The good bark Guilford sails today from the foot of Wall Street. Whatever success may attend the various adventures, associated or individual, they will require a certain medium of circulation, or a fixed standard for their gold-dust. This end may be obtained through the operations of Messrs. Moffat & Co., who go out in the Guilford, with proper assistants, and most complete machinery and apparatus, to supply the want of Californians; in other words, to establish a sort of a mint, to receive gold-dust, smelt and assay it, and by their stamp to give it a currency and value, which must, in the absence of Government character, be received by the merchants and consumers."



    By June 21, 1849 advertisements were already beginning to appear in California announcing the opening of Moffat & Co. with principals John L. Moffat, Samuel H. Ward, Joseph R. Curtis, and Philo H. Perry. It did not take long for the company to distinguish itself from other firms in the area with products of consistently high quality. Just a few years after opening Augustus Humbert was appointed to serve as the U.S. Assayer of Gold in 1851. From that point through August 31, 1852 the coins and ingots issued by Moffat & Co. would enjoy semi-official status (for more information, see Kagin's Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States, p. 152).

    Moffat retired in 1852, leaving Curtis, Perry, and Ward in charge of the United States Assay Office in San Francisco. Ward died in April 1853. Kagin suggests Curtis and Perry suspended coining operations soon after, but not before striking this final emergency issue, which was released on July 26 (they retained rights to the name "Moffat," explaining its use here).

    This particular example qualifies for the Condition Census. It is tied with one other MS62 at NGC and is the sole finest at PCGS. A single NGC-graded MS63 coin is certified finer (4/19). Strike, color, and luster are all fantastic. The portrait, obverse stars, and feathers are well-defined, and each side features luminous yellow-gold surfaces. Abrasions are more prominent on the obverse than the reverse, with several ticks on the cheek and neck. A remarkable territorial gold survivor. Listed on page 405 of the 2020 Guide Book. (NGC ID# ANJC, PCGS# 10255)


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

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2019
    14th-18th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 19
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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