US Coins

New California gold dollar variety surfaces

Numismatic experts have identified a new variety of octagonal 1854 California gold dollar, part of a series of privately issued small denomination or "fractional" gold pieces with face values of $1 or less.

Announcement of the attribution was made jointly by Stack's Bowers Galleries and Numismatic Guaranty Corp., the grading service where the gold piece was recently submitted for authentication and grading.

NGC graded and encapsulated the piece About Uncirculated 55.

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NGC graders tried to attribute the submission according to the BG cataloging numbers in California Pioneer Fractional Gold by Walter Breen and Ronald J. Gillio but determined the piece's diagnostics did not perfectly match any of the known varieties listed in the reference.

According to Stack's Bowers and NGC, it was determined that the octagonal 1854 California gold dollar was positively struck from the same reverse die as BG-529, identified by the two stars between GOLD and DERI, but the obverse was different. 

NGC brought the coin to the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money held Aug. 9 to 13 in Anaheim, Calif., to show it to Gillio, who serves as executive director of consignments and numismatic acquisitions coordinator for Stack’s Bowers Galleries. Gillio, along with John M. Pack, also executive director of consignments for Stack’s Bowers, and numismatic researcher Robert D. Leonard Jr., confirmed that this piece is a new variety, which they listed as BG-529a.

The obverse portrait on the 1854 BG-529a variety closely resembles the portrait of Liberty rendered on the Coronet gold dollars struck by the U.S. Mint, except without LIBERTY inscribed on the coronet.

California fractional gold pieces were struck by private mints in California to fill a need for small denominations in commerce. The coins were issued beginning in 1852 in 25-cent, 50-cent and $1 denominations.

New California fractional gold varieties are seldom identified, with a new discovery made only once every four or five years.

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