US Coins

Gold Rush era gold leads at Heritage’s CSNS coin auctions

Gold coins continued to perform exceptionally well at auction, as seen by Heritage’s various early May U.S. coin auctions that were held after the Central States Numismatic Society convention and realized more than $42 million.

Gold numismatic items accounted for the top 21 lots, led by a Justh & Hunter gold ingot weighing 464.65 ounces from the SS Central America recovery that sold for $1.32 million on May 5. The price was far more than the $880,000 or so “melt value” for that day and is among the largest of the gold ingots of the era.

The Gold Rush firm was located in Marysville, California, 41 miles from Sacramento and close to the gold fields. Its ingots are the second most frequently found in the “Ship of Gold” recovery, second only to the Kellogg & Humbert bars. The recovery of the treasure began in 1988 with the unearthed gold providing collectors a tangible link to the historical Gold Rush era. The offered bar is marked .912 fine and carries a stamped value of $8759.90, with a tiny J&H stamp on both of the corners where the assay chips were cut.

Other top lots included some stellar double eagles including an 1863 Coronet $20 double eagle graded Proof 65+ Cameo by Professional Coin Grading Service with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker that realized $1,020,000 and a 1920-S Saint-Gaudens $20 coin in PCGS MS-65 that brought $600,000.

Much smaller was an 1854-S Coronet gold $2.50 quarter eagle graded Very Good 10 by PCGS that sold for $360,000. It also has its origins in the California Gold Rush. It was one of just 246 struck at the San Francisco Mint and is counted among the smallest mintages of all regular issue U.S. coins. Today perhaps a dozen exist.

At that time folks could deposit gold with the U.S. Mint and request coins, with most preferring larger denominations. Heritage writes that researcher Dan Owens believes these the 246 quarter eagles were minted primarily to test the dies and coin presses.

Mint mark collecting hadn’t taken hold at the time, and the issue fell under collectors’ radars until the early 20th century when its rarity was noticed.

Heritage traced the offered example back to the 1979 American Numismatic Association auction. The firm calls it “worn but presentable,” noting, “As often seen with this issue, more wear is evident on the reverse than the obverse.” Still, the cataloger observed an absence of significant distracting marks, with light-gold yellow surfaces, concluding, “The overall presentation is quite appealing for this landmark gold rarity.”

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