Unique territorial gold $20 coin makes first appearance at Heritage Auctions



2015-06-26 11:33:45

A unique 1855 $20 from the US territorial gold series has recently been discovered

A unique gold $20 coin, produced in 1855 as part of the US’ territorial gold series, will be offered at the Central States Numismatic Society Convention on April 23-25 in Chicago.

The sale is being held by Heritage Auctions, which describes the lot as a “once-in-a-lifetime chance to acquire a newly discovered variety”. The coin is a variation on the 1855 $20 Wass, Molitor & Co $20 Large Head, of which just four examples exist.

"The 1855 Wass, Molitor & Co. $20 gold with the Large Head obverse is one of the most elusive issues in the territorial gold series," said Greg Rohan, president of Heritage Auctions. "This coin, from the celebrated Riverboat Collection, has recently been examined by several expert numismatists and some exciting new findings have come to light."

The coin last auctioned in 1984, for $40,700

This coin was last seen at auction in 1984, where it made $40,700. However, this was before a new study took place in which the coin was found to be unique due to the reverse die used, which is the same employed for the more common $20 Small Head coin produced by the private mint. No estimate has been given since the discovery.

As the California gold rush hit North America in 1848, thousands of opportunists flocked to the region to find their fortune. However, it was difficult to transport the gold to the east of the country for coinage due to the vast distance, and local economies were established based on barter and pinches of gold dust.

The need for new branches of the US Mint was obvious, yet the government refused to let individual states issue their own coinage. However, there was nothing to stop private companies from striking their own money, and soon a number of companies began producing coins and ingots for trade.

Wass, Molitor & Co’s coins were produced in large numbers, but the majority were melted down when the San Francisco Mint was established in 1854.

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