Guest Article: So-called $50 Slug Facsimiles
Posted on 12/11/2009
What’s a So-called Slug?
They are one of the most interesting yet elusive numismatic collectables.
They represent the very large gold coins that were struck in California for use by the Miners and Pioneers during the Gold Rush. The original coins were termed "Ingots" by the United States Mint because of their large weight and value of $50. The US Assay Office of San Francisco issued the first such pieces. The coin became commonly known as a "Slug" because of its size. The US Government began to pull the $50 Slugs from circulation after the completion of the San Francisco Mint in 1854.
Facsimiles of these historic coins were made beginning in the early 1900s in size, shape and color of the old $50 gold "Slug" used in California. Among the earliest Facsimiles known were those designed by C. G. Brinker of San Francisco and made by Irvine & Jachens.
The Irvine & Jachens metal working company was established in 1886 in San Francisco by J. C. Irvine. All early Irvine & Jachens slugs have a design representative of the Augustus Humbert $50 Octagonal Gold Coin of the 1850s, which had an Eagle on the obverse. The company is still in business today... but has not made a Slug since 1950.
Other die markers include Greenduck Co. Chicago and San Francisco die makers Moise-Klinkner Co. and Patrick & Co., all of whom made medals and tokens in the early 1900s.
These Slugs and Facsimiles were often produced and sold in conjunction with the California-based Expositions of 1915–16, 1935, 1939–40 and State Centennials of the late 1940s. Some are very rare, with less than 20 known to exist. The coins unique historical images recall a dynamic and romantic period in American History.
More than 100 of these $50 Slug Facsimiles made between the 1890s and 1970s have now been classified into 12 basic types and are now certifiable by NGC.
For those who are interested in collecting them, a complete collection may well be a life-long challenge but a type set by basic design makes a historic and spectacular presentation!
I’ve always just loved them...the size, the shape, the weight, the color, the design and the history associated with these Slugs and Facsimiles.
By Thomas Jankovsky
I’ve collected coins for over 50 years. Started out like many others with Indians and Lincolns in Whitman Albums. Moved on to collecting US Type coins, then Colonials, then European Gold. This European Gold Collection was often displayed in the early 1980s as the "Age of Empires" collection.
Was part-time dealer in the early 1980s and then for a short time after retirement in 2003. Since then have sold most of the collections though Rarcoa and the major action companies Heritage, Stack’s, etc. Also sold a few on eBay as AOE "Authority on Exonumia."
Began collecting $50 Slug Facsimiles about 20 years ago after buying the first few from Mr. Kagin. After retirement moved on to collecting Bashlow restrikes and then So-called Dollars.
Published a Reference Guide to Slugs and Facsimiles in 2008, won NGC awards for "Best Signature" Sets in 2006 and 2008.
Would you like to be a guest writer for the NGC e-mail newsletter? Share your collecting interests and experiences with our readership. NGC is accepting writing submissions for our Web site and our monthly e-mail newsletter. Click here for full details.