Numismatic Guaranty Corporation has certified and graded what is only the second known specimen of the Pacific Company gold dollar struck in gold. Graded MS-61, this exceedingly rare coin was previously attributed by numismatists as a silver strike with gilding (gold plating).
Numismatic Guaranty Corporation has certified and graded
what is only the second known specimen of the Pacific
Company gold dollar struck in gold. Graded MS-61, this
exceedingly rare coin was previously attributed by numismatists
as a silver strike with gilding (gold plating). Non-destructive
testing performed in-house by NGC and by an outside
testing laboratory confirmed what was suspected by the
coin's submitterthat this example was actually
coined in a gold alloy.
Company was a joint partnership of 38 individuals formed
in January of 1849. Their goal was to reach California
with the prospect of coining the gold bullion then in
such abundance. Arriving in San Francisco on September
16, the company disbanded before ever using the dies
they'd commissioned in the East. Instead, the dies evidently
were sold to the established assaying firm of Broderick
& Kohler in San Francisco, which then produced eagles
and half eagles for general circulation. When the coins
proved to be worth less than their face value, recipients
refused to take them except at steep discounts. Thus
discredited, nearly the entire coinage was melted within
just a few years, accounting for the great rarity of
The quarter eagle and gold dollar dies were long believed
by numismatists to have gone unused, except for trial
strikings in off metals. Some of these are known to
have been gilded, and it was long thought that the present
specimen was one such coin. It was not until two years
ago that the first gold specimen of the Pacific Company
dollar surfaced, and it was believed to be unique until
now. That coin was Lot 1041 in Bowers & Merena Galleries'
auction of the Paul S. Mory, Sr. Collection, June 22-23,
2000. An ex-jewelry piece, it is marred by solder that
obscures part of its reverse design.
The newly confirmed specimen appeared as Lot 943 in
The Rarities Sale, also by Bowers & Merena Galleries,
held July 31, 2002. It was therein described as silver-gilt,
and no data was provided on the coin's specifics. This
specimen had previously been part of the vast holdings
of famed collector/hoarder Virgil M. Brand, who acquired
it from a Ben Green auction in August of 1910. It was
last sold publicly in 1984 in Bowers & Merena Galleries'
sale of the Virgil M. Brand Collection and had resided
within the Jay Roe Collection of pioneer gold coins
until appearing at auction last month. As this newly
confirmed gold specimen is undamaged, aside from a very
small test mark on its obverse rim, it is easily the
finer of the two known examples.
Acting on his suspicion that this was, in fact, an
actual gold striking, dealer Stuart Levine bid liberally
and secured the lot after fierce competition with a
telephone bidder. Levine then submitted the coin to
NGC, requesting that it be tested in a nondestructive
manner to determine its actual composition. This proved
to be .722 gold, .168 silver and .110 copper, as compared
to the federal standard of .900 gold and .100 silver
and copper. This low gold fineness is not unusual with
pioneer coins. The bullion was often coined as found,
the minters compensating for any discrepancy by increasing
the coin's weight. For example, the gold dollars minted
by the Bechtler Family in North Carolina ranged in weight
from 30 grains down to 27 grains. Indeed, this specimen
weighs 29.56 grains, noticeably heavier than the U.S.
Mint standard of 25.80 grains.
The specific gravity of the Pacific Company gold dollar
is 13.39, about midway between the specific gravities
of federal gold (17.16) and silver (10.34) coins of
the period, a finding that is consistent with its composition.
Stuart Levine was delighted with the findings of NGC's
numismatists. "I'm elated that my hypothesis has
been confirmed by NGC," he reported. "It's
exciting to be able to look at coins every day for over
23 years and still find something new. It is truly the
thrill of numismatics. I suspected that the coin was
gold when I examined the tiny test cut on the edge and
saw no evidence of silver or base metal. This coin clearly
wasn't gilt. The lack of undertype convinced me further,
since all silver specimens I've seen have been overstruck
on other small silver coins."
Levine went on to add, "This comes at an opportune
time in my life, as the sale of this item will help
put my son through college. I'm glad I chose NGC. With
their knowledgeable staff and experience they are experts
in all facets of numismatic authentication and grading
of United States and related coinage."
NGC Research Director Dave Lange was pleased to have
had this opportunity to witness numismatic history:
"I was a bit skeptical when Stu brought this coin
to our table at the New York ANA show, but I've done
this sort of work a number of times on behalf of our
customers, and this coin was too important to not do
everything possible. When we perform these tests, it's
typically with pattern coins, but I've not had the occasion
to bring a territorial piece to the lab for testing.
It's remarkable that both known gold specimens have
surfaced in the past few years and were not known to
Donald Kagin when he wrote his standard reference on
Mark Salzberg, President of NGC, was equally enthusiastic:
"It's really amazing that rarities of this magnitude
are still being discovered. The history that this coin
represents makes it one of the most important American
coins, and I'm pleased that Stu entrusted NGC with the
responsibility of certifying it."