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Small In Stature, But a Big Deal For Collectors

by Heritage Auctions

Published on August 22, 2020

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California Fractional Gold coins are artifacts of Gold Rush history that were created to solve the lack of coinage in circulation that occurred when gold was found in the West in the 1840s and 50s. While there were not enough coins to keep commerce running smoothly (as the West was far from most of the operational mints creating coins at the time and "off the beaten path" for most trade), there was plenty of gold metal--mostly impractical gold dust.


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Reverse side of the 1853 50C Arms of California 50 Cents, BG-435

California Fractional Gold coins are artifacts of Gold Rush history that were created to solve the lack of coinage in circulation that occurred when gold was found in the West in the 1840s and 50s. While there were not enough coins to keep commerce running smoothly (as the West was far from most of the operational mints creating coins at the time and "off the beaten path" for most trade), there was plenty of gold metal--mostly impractical gold dust.

Enterprising groups turned this raw metal into small but powerful coins known today as California Fractional gold. These were mainly denominated as 25 Cents, 50 Cents, or One Dollar. These coins are tiny--smaller than today's dime--but they are a big deal for collectors despite their small stature.

Of the over 450 varieties known to exist, one of the most famous is the Arms of California type, which shows the state's coat of arms. Heritage is offering a round example of this famous and popular type, which is expected to sell for more than $10,000 despite its diminutive size! It features the Assay Office Eagle reverse, which is familiar to collectors of territorial gold coinage. Graded MS65 by NGC, this coin is also tied for the finest graded by that service, so it combines overall rarity with especially nice condition. A similar piece sold for $17,000 in this grade a few years ago.

This is part of the September Sale 1319.



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