US Coins

Market Analysis: Designs on small-denomination California gold

The California coat of arms and an eagle inspired by contemporary privately issued circulating coins make these round 1853 50-cent coins popular. One graded MS-63 in an old PCGS holder sold for $9,000 while another higher graded one in MS-64 sold for less, realizing $5,550.

Images courtesy of Kagin’s.

One of the most popular designs in the California small-denomination gold series is the round 1853 50-cent piece featuring the distinct Arms of California design on the obverse with the reverse showing an eagle inspired by the coins produced under the authority of Augustus Humbert, the United States Assayer at San Francisco. Collectors love how the design ties into the history of California and the Gold Rush.

Leading bidding at Kagin’s April session was one listed as BG-435 in the Breen-Gillio reference graded Mint State 63 by Professional Coin Grading Service in an older, green-label holder that sold for $9,000.

The cataloger wrote, “An outstanding example at every turn, a coin with bold luster, a strike much crisper than typically seen for the type, and pale olive iridescence that adds greatly to the overall appeal.”

Another graded MS-64 of the same variety in a PCGS 30th anniversary holder sold for less, realizing $5,500.

The maker of these “Cal. Gold” pieces remains unknown, though researchers have suggested the firm Braverman & Levy.

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