Skip to main content
Go to accessibility options


    1854 Kellogg & Co. Twenty, MS65
    Single-Finest Certified at PCGS
    Short Arrows, K-1a

    1854 $20 Kellogg & Co. MS65 PCGS. CAC. Short Arrows, K-1a, R.4. Ex: Simpson. John Glover Kellogg arrived in San Francisco in October 1849, after a lengthy voyage around Cape Horn from his home in Onondaga County, New York. Trained as a lawyer, Kellogg soon found work as a cashier with the private coinage firm of Moffat & Co. He remained at that firm through all its future incarnations as Curtis, Perry and Ward and the United States Assay Office of Gold, until it was disbanded on December 14, 1853, in anticipation of the opening of the San Francisco Mint. After the Assay Office closed, Kellogg and assayer G.F. Richter established their own firm, doing business as Kellogg & Co. The new firm was endorsed by their old employers, Curtis, Perry, and Augustus Humbert, former U.S. Assayer, in an advertisement in the San Francisco Herald "bearing testimony to their industry, integrity, and skill, and commending them [Kellogg and Richter] to the confidence and patronage of the public."

    At that time, there was an acute shortage of coinage in the regional economy, because all the earlier private mints had closed down and the new federal facility did not open its doors until April 3, 1854. In January 1854 numerous local banks petitioned Kellogg and Richter, pleading with them to produce gold coins until the Mint opened. Accordingly, Kellogg & Co. began coining private-issue twenty dollar gold pieces in February that greatly resembled the federal design. The dies were probably cut by the old Assay Office engraver, Albert Kuner, and the reverse dies were the same as those used on the 1853 "Moffat & Co." twenty dollar coinage. Kellogg probably took the dies with him, after the Assay Office closed. Kellogg claimed that his firm could issue $20,000 worth of new gold coinage per day.

    Even after the San Francisco Mint officially opened, chronic shortages of supplies, like parting acids and copper for alloy, hampered its productivity and led to lengthy shutdowns. In his standard series reference, Don 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. It seems Kellogg & Co. stopped issuing gold coinage late in 1855, by which time the San Francisco Mint had resolved most of its problems and was able to provide the region with a dependable supply of coinage. Most of the Kellogg & Co. issues were turned in for recoinage shortly afterward.

    Today, the 1854 Kellogg & Co. twenties are scarce, but not rare in the absolute sense. Most examples seen are in the XF-AU grade range, and Mint State examples are decidedly rare. PCGS has graded 14 examples in all Mint State grades, but this coin is the only specimen that grades better than MS62+ (5/20). A single SP69 NGC example is known, that once belonged to United States Assayer Augustus Humbert, and later appeared in the famous Garrett Collection (5/20). Currently, NGC has certified 26 coins in all Mint State grades, including a single MS66 example that we believe may be a prior submission of the Humbert/Garrett SP69 coin. NGC has graded no other examples better than MS63 (5/20).

    The Present Coin
    Four die varieties are known for the 1854 Kellogg & Co. twenties. This coin represents the K-1a variety, with KELLOGG & CO. centered on the coronet and a lightly punched, curved date, with the 4 leaning left on the obverse. The reverse features short arrows, with a weak center shaft. The first appearance of the present coin we can trace with any certainty is in lot 77 of the Arthur C. Nygren Collection (Henry Chapman, 4/1924). The lot was plated in the Chapman sale and the linear planchet flaw on Liberty's cheek makes it easy to identify the coin. Nygren was a resident of San Francisco during his collecting days and was elected vice president of the Pacific Coast Numismatic Society in 1915. His collection included many mintmarked issues from the Western mints, as well as a fabulous collection of territorial gold issues. The silver and minor coins were mostly auctioned by B. Max Mehl in 1914 and the territorials were offered by Chapman 10 years later. Nygren died in 1923 and his collection was consigned to Chapman by his sister. This coin was described as:

    "1854 $20. Head of Liberty l., with KELLOGG & CO. on diadem, date below, around 13 small stars. The letters in KELLOGG & CO are large. R. SAN FRANCISCO CALIFORNIA TWENTY D. Displayed eagle with double scroll, 13 stars and sunburst over eagle; small short arrows. Borders beaded. Edge milled. Uncirculated. Sharp, brilliant impression. Mint lustre. A gem and extremely rare in this preservation. Plate."

    The lot realized $77, to Fort Worth coin dealer B. Max Mehl. We suspect Mehl was acting as an agent for Virgil Brand at the sale, as Brand recorded the purchase in his Journal under number 130851.

    We are less certain about the next appearance of this specimen, but feel fairly confident it was the coin described in lot 294 of the Belden Roach Collection (B. Max Mehl, 2/1944):

    "1854 Type of regular issue, but diadem on Liberty's head inscribed KELLOGG & CO. Reverse, type of regular issue, but legend SAN FRANCISCO CALIFORNIA TWENTY D. Beautiful uncirculated specimen, perfect in every respect, as perfect as the day it was minted. A beautiful even frosty mint surface. Sharp; not the slightest touch of even cabinet friction. As perfect a specimen of this coin as I have ever seen. Variety with short arrows. Not a rarity, but extremely rare in this remarkable perfect condition. Cost $85 and is really worth much more."

    Unfortunately, the lot was not plated, so we cannot link the Roach coin to the present example with absolute certainty. However, the description fits this coin to a T, and its continued association with Mehl and roughly equivalent price with the Nygren coin constitute convincing circumstantial evidence.

    The next appearance of this fabulous Gem was in lot 991 of RARCOA's section of Auction '82. The consignor was not identified, but the introduction to the section on private and territorial gold gave a good account of the scope of his collection:

    "The following selection of Pioneer and Territorial Gold represents the Finest quality collection ever assembled. While there have been others that were numerically larger in size, condition-wise the following is totally unsurpassed. It was painstakingly assembled over a period of some 40 years. To our knowledge no other collection has ever contained as many Mint State or FINEST KNOWN specimens. The sale of the collection offers the specialist a once in a lifetime opportunity."

    This specimen was a highlight of the remarkable consignment, a mark of distinction for any coin. The cataloger described it as:

    "SUPERB GEM BRILLIANT UNCIRCULATED. Truly exceptional in all respects. Full luster and complete original mint bloom with fantastic rich golden color. Absolutely, THE FINEST STRIKE we have ever seen with sharp complete star radials and full hair and feather detail. Immaculate surfaces. Unquestionably THE FINEST KNOWN Uncirculated Kellogg Twenty and worthy of a bid commensurate with its quality. This coin must be seen to be believed."

    The coin, which was valued at $10,000 in the Guide Book at the time, realized $28,000, prompting a mention on the front page of the next issue of the Coin Dealer Newsletter.

    In more recent times, this coin was offered in two memorable auctions by American Numismatic Rarities (2006) and Heritage (2008), setting an auction prices realized record for the issue of $310,000 along the way. It was acquired by Bob Simpson and has been a centerpiece of his territorial gold collection ever since.

    Physical Description
    The coin offered here is a spectacular Gem, richly deserving of the many superlatives earlier catalogers have lavished on it. This coin is the finest-certified example at PCGS by a wide margin and informed numismatists believe it is the finest circulation-strike Kellogg twenty, regardless of date and variety. The NGC Census has listed an MS66-graded example since at least 2005, but no such coin has ever appeared at auction and we believe the citation might represent an earlier submission of the only known Specimen striking from the Humbert/Garrett Collections. This coin exhibits razor-sharp definition on all design elements, with full star centers and fully rounded beads on the tiara. The impeccably preserved surfaces display rich yellow-gold color, with subtle highlights of green and red. A thin linear lamination on Liberty's cheek and a small planchet flake in the obverse field, near star 5, are the only useful pedigree markers. This coin has been off the market for a dozen years and the advanced specialist will find no suitable substitute for this magnificent Gem once this opportunity has passed. Listed on page 412 of the 2020 Guide Book. Population: 1 in 65, 0 finer. CAC: 1 in 65, 0 finer (8/20).
    Ex: Arthur Nygren Collection (Henry Chapman, 4/1924), lot 77, realized $77, to B. Max Mehl; Virgil Brand (Brand Journal number 130851); possibly Belden Roach Collection (B. Max Mehl, 2/1944), lot 294, realized $94.50; Auction '82 (RARCOA, 8/1982), lot 991, realized $28,000; New York Connoisseur's Collection (American Numismatic Rarities, 3/2006), lot 1383 (as MS64 PCGS), realized $310,000; Madison Collection (Heritage, 1/2008), lot 3447, graded MS64 PCGS, certification number 09501813, realized $299,000; Simpson Collection.

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# ANHZ, PCGS# 10222)

    View Certification Details from PCGS

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    September, 2020
    17th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 37
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 4,441

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    20% of the successful bid (minimum $19) per lot.

    Sold on Sep 17, 2020 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item