US Coins

This Pioneer gold coin is crude yet fascinating

More than $6.385 million in rare coins traded hands at Kagin’s auction held in conjunction with the American Numismatic Association National Money Show in Orlando, Fla.

Core collections in the auction included the Dr. Christopher Allan Collection of Bechtler Coins, which is among the finest sets of this North Carolina pioneer gold coinage ever assembled. With its home base in the San Francisco area, Kagin’s has a particular expertise in pioneer gold coins including California gold, so it is only fitting that the auction offered strong examples of these fascinating and specialized areas.

Here is one of three we're profiling in this latest Market Analysis:

The Lot:

1861 Clark, Gruber & Co. $2.50 pioneer gold coin, Mint State 63

The Coin:


The Story:

Many gold coins collected under the broad umbrella of pioneer or territorial gold issues — which are private issues, generally struck in regions of major gold finds that were not served by a federal Mint facility — have designs that mimic contemporary circulating coins. This served a dual purpose of adding legitimacy to private mint issues and it spared the individual manufacturers from having to come up with original designs.

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Clark, Gruber & Co. was a private minting firm in Denver that manufactured gold issues dated 1860 and 1861. An 1861 gold quarter eagle of the firm, listed as Kagin 5 in Don Kagin’s reference Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States and graded MS-63 by PCGS, sold for $30,550.

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The catalog entry notes, “The crude die work of this Clark, Gruber coin is fascinating to examine,” observing, “The obverse stars are spindly and thin six-pointed affairs, and the date numerals are curious to say the least.” The reverse has the curious feature of an isolated arrow feather where a Mint mark would normally go, which Kagin’s suspects is a die feature that was only partly removed.

Keep Reading About Kagin's Sale of Pioneer Gold Coins:

Pioneer $2.50 Gold coinThe $2.50 pioneer gold coin that topped the sale of Allan Collection of Bechtler coins:  As Kagin’s writes regarding the hand-struck coin, “The crudeness of the punch devices is a delight to behold in this day and age of homogenized perfection.”

1853 California gold coin1853 California gold half dollar sold in Kagin’s auction features less common obverse design:  These coins are tiny compared to most California gold issues. Struck in 1852, they were meant to compensate for the short supply of silver coinage.

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