US Coins

Market Analysis: 1849 $2.50 of ‘Salt Lake City Pure Gold’

This handsome 1849 gold $2.50 quarter eagle from Utah’s Deseret Assay Office made of “Salt Lake City Pure Gold” graded About Uncirculated 53+ by PCGS brought $72,000 in the February Kagin’s auction. As the “Red Book” explains, “The first name given to the organized Mormon Territory was the ‘State of Deseret,’ the last word meaning ‘honeybee,’ ” and a hive appears on the $5 Mormon gold issues. The quarter eagles and other denominations featured clasped hands, representing strength in unity, and the inscription HOLINESS TO THE LORD.

Kagin’s writes, “While no gold was discovered in Utah, Mormon prospectors living in Northern California were among the first to mine the gold when it was discovered on Sutter’s mill in Coloma January 24, 1848.” The Mormon issues were struck from gold brought back to the new Mormon home of Salt Lake City under the guidance of leader Brigham Young.

All was not as it seemed with these gold coins, with the catalog entry noting, “Although professing to be pure gold, they certainly were not. Subsequent assays revealed that they only contained 80% for their stamped value and they were universally discredited and melted.” Survivors in all grades are desirable and this lustrous example features unusual deep orange and violet toning.

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