1851 $50 Augustus Humbert, United States Assayer, California Gold, 880 Thous. value. Hand-punched lettered edge. Target design no 50 on reverse. NGC MS61. According to Q. David Bowers’ in A California Gold Rush History, the production of the 50 reverse K-1 and K-2 octagonal fifty dollar coins required a 14 step manual process:
(1st step) The obverse and reverse were stamped from a pair of dies. (Steps 2-4) The fineness of 880 or 887 was hand-stamped on the obverse from three separate numeral punches. (5th step) The value 50 was stamped on the obverse beside the D (“dollars”), from a single punch. (Steps 6-13) In eight separate operations, each of the octagonal edges was stamped with a logotype punch. In no errors were produced, the edge read AUGUSTUS / HUMBERT / UNITED / STATES / ASSAYER / OF GOLD / CALIFORNIA / 1851. (14 final step) The value 50 was hand-stamped on the reverse on certain issues, most likely those that were struck prior to the Assay office becoming more efficient.
Rarely, if ever, do these magnificent $50 “slugs” remain in Uncirculated condition. They were intended to have a short shelf-life – being struck i the most efficient manner available (at the time) then transported via ship to the Philadelphia mint where they would be melted down and made into the smaller denomination coins intended for commerce. To encounter a Mint State example means extra care was employed at preserving the coin from generation to generation. We have recently acquired this marvelous specimen from an estate in Texas.
This is a splendid greenish/yellow-gold Mint State example of the Kagin-2 variety, featuring the 880 Thous. fineness stamp but without “50” stamped at the central reverse. We note the small concentric circle at the reverse center with 24 tiny arrow points around its circumference, typical for the issue. The surfaces do show a few scattered contact marks on each side, along with a few small irregularities that were undoubtedly part of the planchet-making process but these are rendered somewhat invisible by the prooflike surfaces and the strong strike. There are far less marks than the PCGS MS60 example Heritage sold in 2014 for $282,000. Another feature we really like is NO RIM BUMPS which plague this issue in both circulated and uncirculated conditions. The original surfaces show a good strike overall and great eye appeal. The auction record for this issue occurred in 2010 when a MS63 realized $546,250.
Population of 5 with 10 coins finer. Coin Universe published price is $265,000.