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    1855 Kellogg Fifty Dollar, PR53
    Major Territorial Gold Rarity, K-4
    Struck Only in Presentation Format

    1855 $50 Kellogg & Co. Fifty Dollar PR53 PCGS. K-4, Breen-7921, High R.6 in proof format; unknown in business strike format. The 1855 Kellogg and Co. fifty dollar gold pieces are major rarities in the Territorial gold series of the mid-19th century, as all known examples were struck in the proof format, as noted above. None were produced for circulation, for unknown reasons, although the production of proof examples surely appears to have been in anticipation of a circulating coinage.

    The United States anticipated the need for a branch mint in California as early as 1848, the year that the first major gold deposits were discovered at Sutter's Mill. President James K. Polk's address to Congress on December 5, 1848, called the funding of a branch mint in San Francisco "of utmost importance" for the United States "to fully avail ourselves of the undeveloped wealth of these mines."
    Polk spoke at length, pointing up the benefits of a West Coast mint:

    "Among other single advantages which would result from such an establishment would be that of raising the gold to its par value in that territory. A branch mint of the United States at the great commercial depot on the west coast would convert into our own coin not only the gold derived from our own rich mines, but also the bullion and specie which our commerce may bring from the whole west coast of Central and South America. The west coast of America and the adjacent interior embrace the richest and best mines of Mexico, New Granada [present-day Colombia and Panama, along with portions of Ecuador and Venezuela], Central America, Chili (sic), and Peru. The bullion and specie drawn from these countries, and especially from those of western Mexico and Peru, to an amount in value of many millions of dollars, are now annually diverted and carried by the ships of Great Britain to her own ports, to be recoined or used to sustain her national bank, and thus contribute to increase her ability to command so much of the commerce of the world. If a branch mint be established at the great commercial point upon that coast, a vast amount of bullion and specie would flow thither to be recoined, and pass thence to New Orleans, New York, and other Atlantic cities. The amount of our constitutional currency at home would be greatly increased, while its circulation abroad would be promoted. It is well known to our merchants trading to China and the west coast of America that great inconvenience and loss are experienced from the fact that our coins are not current at their par value in those countries."

    The San Francisco Mint was finally opened in April 1854, only after a delay of several more years, and even then its output was unpredictable and sporadic -- and this in the face of burgeoning demographic and commercial needs for an increasing and dependable supply of gold coinage.

    In 1854, a few months before the San Francisco Mint opened, a committee of bankers contacted private coiners and assayers Kellogg and Richter to fill the existing commercial vacuum of gold coinage. The firm answered within a short time, producing twenty dollar gold pieces in both 1854 and 1855 (the latter under the auspices of the reorganized firm of Kellogg and Humbert). The 1855 Kellogg twenties were struck in greater quantity than the 1854 pieces, even though the San Francisco Mint was already producing gold coinage (more than 879,000 double eagles in 1855 alone).

    Even though Wass, Molitor & Co., their competitors, struck fifty dollar round gold coins in 1855 in considerable quantity, no fifties for circulation were struck at the Kellogg firm; only presentation pieces are known, although some are impaired or lightly circulated, as in the case of the present coin. Ferdinand Grüner cut the dies for the pieces in 1855. The obverse greatly resembles the federal Liberty Head double eagles of the period, while the eagle-rock-shield motif on the reverse favors the Moffat-Humbert-U.S. Assay Office twenty and fifty dollar coins of a few years earlier, the scroll here reading 1309 GRS 887 THOUS (a net gold content proportionally equivalent to the federal standard, although of slightly lower fineness), with SAN FRANCISCO CALIFORNIA and FIFTY DOLLS around the reverse periphery.

    This PR53 PCGS example is easily identified via plate-matching with the Superior-Orlando example, #12 in the roster below, by the small near-vertical mark above Liberty's head. Some light chatter and a few scattered, smaller marks attest to minor mishandling. Yet the surfaces still retain much reflectivity and show the expected razor-sharp proof strike, a coin that is as attractive as it is rare. Listed on page 391 of the 2014 Guide Book.

    Roster of 1855 Proof Kellogg & Co. Fifty Dollars
    This roster was compiled from many sources, expanding on previous efforts by Walter Breen and DeWitt Smith, with extensive contributions by Mark Borckardt and Dave Stone of Heritage Auctions, numismatic researchers P. Scott Rubin and Karl Moulton, and pioneer gold specialist Don Kagin. It is believed that 14 examples of this famous rarity survive, but some earlier appearances are unaccounted for. The associated number from Walter Breen's roster has been included where applicable. At one time or another, most of the known examples have been described as the finest known.

    1. PR64 PCGS. Breen #11. British private collection; Greater New York Convention (Stack's, 5/1984), lot 784; Robert Hughes; Rarities Sale (Bowers and Merena, 8/1995), lot 498; 2007 FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2007), lot 3893. In the 1984 catalog, Stack's noted: "From information conveyed to us, this coin has recently come from England along with a few less important Territorial and Federal gold coins."

    2. PR64 PCGS. Breen #1. Augustus Humbert; Humbert's heirs; Capt. Andrew C. Zabriskie; Zabriskie Collection (Henry Chapman, 6/1909), lot 341; Col. James W. Ellsworth; John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University; Garrett Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 3/1980), lot 910; Kagin's; Paul Padget; Donald Kagin and Stuart Levine; private collection. In the Garrett catalog, it was noted: "It is believed to be the finest known example of its kind." However, that catalog was written several years before the example mentioned above became known to the numismatic community. Walter Breen recorded the Garrett piece as later appearing in Auction '85. However, the coin in that auction was the unique 1854 Kellogg twenty dollar proof from the Garrett Collection.

    3. PR63 PCGS. Not in Breen. Smith & Son (3/1941); Frank Heim (6/2000); Don Kagin; Q. David Bowers; Don Kagin; Superior (1/2005), lot 953; Western collector; ANA Signature (Heritage, 8/2007), lot 2119; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2008), lot 3448.

    4. PR63 PCGS. Breen #2. Kellogg family; possibly sold privately by Thomas Elder around 1916; New York collector, possibly F.C.C. Boyd; "J.F. Bell" in 1945; Memorable Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 3/1948), lot 967; Don Keefer; F.K. Saab; Gibson Sale (Stack's, 11/1974), lot 189; Auction '79 (Stack's, 7/1979), lot 996; Jerome S. Coles Collection (Stack's, 10/1983), lot 239; 68th Anniversary Sale (Stack's, 10/2003), lot 2292; 72nd Anniversary Sale (Stack's, 10/2007), lot 4017; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2009), lot 4228.

    5. Choice Proof. Not in Breen. Buddy Ebsen Collection (Superior, 5/1987), lot 3140. This piece appears to be an example that matches none of the others and was unlisted in the Breen Census.

    6. PR62 PCGS. Breen #3. George W. Rice; Virgil M. Brand; William F. Dunham (B. Max Mehl, 6/1941), lot 2369; W.D. Waltman Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1945), lot 37; Chicago ANA (James Kelly, 8/1956), lot 1850; Amon Carter, Sr.; Amon Carter, Jr. Collection (Stack's, 1/1984), lot 1149; Harlan White; ANA Signature (Heritage, 8/1997), lot 7898; Donald Kagin; Craig Smith; Paul S. Mory Collection (Bowers and Merena, 6/2000), lot 1053; Rarities Sale (Bowers and Merena, 1/2002), lot 857; Midwest collection.

    7. PR62 NGC. Breen #7. N.M. Kaufman Collection (RARCOA, 8/1978), lot 66; Auction '80 (Paramount, 8/1980), lot 982; Auction '84 (RARCOA, 7/1984), lot 2000; ANA Signature (Heritage, 8/1992), lot 2583; RARCOA; Donald Kagin; private collection.

    8. PR62. Breen #9. Augustus Humbert; Humbert's heirs; Capt. Andrew C. Zabriskie; Henry Chapman; John Story Jenks; Reuting Collection; Arthur C. Nygren (B. Max Mehl, 11/1914), lot 82; Henry Chapman (per Mehl in the Waltman catalog); George Alfred Lawrence (Thomas Elder, 6/1929), lot 1365; John H. Clapp; Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; Eliasberg Estate; Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection (Bowers and Merena, 5/1996), lot 366; East Coast collection.

    9. PR62. Breen #4. Augustus Humbert; Humbert's heirs; Capt. Andrew C. Zabriskie; Henry Chapman; George H. Earle Collection (Henry Chapman, 6/1912), lot 3782; purchased by B. Max Mehl and sold to Fred T. Huddart; Judge C.W. Slack (B. Max Mehl, 5/1925), lot 29; Col. E.H.R. Green; Josiah Lilly Collection; Smithsonian Institution. Walter Breen recorded this specimen as once the property of Amon Carter, Sr. and Jr., although such a listing is doubtful. Additional intermediaries handled this coin on a consignment basis. Both Smithsonian pieces have recently been examined and graded by Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth.

    10. PR62. Breen #5. H.O. Granberg (consigned to the 1914 ANS Exhibition); William H. Woodin (exhibited by Edgar Adams at the 1916 ANA Convention); Waldo C. Newcomer; Willis duPont; Smithsonian Institution. This piece was stolen from duPont in October 1967 and recovered in July or August 1978, as reported in Coin World, August 9, 1978. Illustrated at and plate-matched to Mehl's Newcomer plates.

    11. PR60 PCGS. East Coast estate / Boston ANA Platinum Night (Heritage, 8/2010), lot 3692, bought in.

    12. PR53 PCGS. Breen #10. J.W. Schmandt (Stack's, 2/1957), lot 1028; Dan Brown; John H. Murrell; Henry H. Clifford; ANA (Kagin, 8/1983), lot 3630; Auction '88 (Superior, 7/1988), lot 491; Auction '90 (Superior, 8/1990), lot 1406; Orlando (Superior, 8/1992); private collection; the present example.

    13. Impaired Proof. Breen #6. Augustus Humbert; Humbert's heirs; Capt. Andrew C. Zabriskie; Henry Chapman; John A. Beck; John A. Beck, Part I (Quality Sales, 1/1975), lot 729; Dr. Ketterman; Arnold and Romisa Collections (Bowers and Merena, 9/1984), lot 330; Hoke S. Green Collection (Bowers and Merena, 6/1985), lot 24; Ambassador J. William Middendorf II Collection (Christie's, 3/1994), lot 375; Morrison, Licht Collection (Stack's, 3/2005), lot 1320; Donald Kagin; private collection. Described as a "Brilliant Proof with some hairlines and minor friction."

    14. XF Details NCS. Breen #8. C.W. Cowell (B. Max Mehl, 1911); Waldo Newcomer (exhibited at the 1916 ANA Convention); Charles Williams (per Mehl in the Waltman catalog); New York Metropolitan Sale (Stack's, 4/1962), lot 2814; John Rowe; Abner Kreisberg (1968); Public Auction (Quality Sales Corp., 11/1972), lot 1410A; Jack Klauson; 1973 ANA (Jess Peters, 8/1973), lot 1030; Walter Breen Gold Sale #1 (Pine Tree, 3/1974), lot 455; West Coast collection; Christie's (3/1990); Morrison/ Licht Collection (Stack's, 3/2005), lot 1321; Donald Kagin; private collection. In 1972, Abner Kreisberg and Jerry Cohen commented: "The usual surface abrasions and scratches have all been removed and quite a bit of luster is still adhering. Extremely Fine."

    Other Appearances
    These citations represent earlier appearances of coins we are unable to positively link to the pedigree chains above. They may constitute duplicate appearances of examples above, or they may be different individual coins.

    A. DeWitt Smith, of Lee, Massachusetts, by 1905; obtained by Virgil Brand when he purchased the DeWitt Smith Collection intact.
    B. Augustus Humbert; Humbert's heirs; Capt. Andrew C. Zabriskie; Henry Chapman; William R. Weeks and Augustus Humbert Collections (Henry Chapman, 5/1902), lot 716; Virgil Brand.
    C. Two specimens retained by the heirs of John Glover Kellogg.
    D. A specimen said to be in the possession of J.W. Scott in the 19th century.
    From The Klamath Mountain Collection, Part II.

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 6JAT, PCGS# 10228)

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

    View all of [The Klamath Mountain Collection, Part II ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2014
    8th-12th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 14
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,383

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