Gold coins continued to do exceptionally well at auction, as evidenced by Heritage’s various US coin auctions in early May that took place after the Central States Numismatic Society convention and achieved over $42 million.
Gold numismatic items represented the first 21 batches, led by a Justh & Hunter gold bar weighing 464.65 ounces from SS central America salvage that sold for $1.32 million on May 5. The price was well above the “melt value” of around $880,000 for that day and was among the largest gold bullion at the time.
The Gold Rush company was located in Marysville, California, 41 miles from Sacramento and near the gold fields. Its bars are the second most frequently found in the “Ship of Gold” recovery, just behind Kellogg & Humbert bars. The recovery of the treasure began in 1988 with the unearthed gold offering collectors a tangible link to the historic Gold Rush era. The offered bar is marked with a fine of .912 and has a stamped value of $8759.90, with a tiny J&H stamp on the two corners where the test chips were cut.
Other highlight lots included Stellar Double Eagles, including a $20 Coronet Double Eagle from 1863 graded Proof 65+ Cameo by Professional Coin Grading Service with a green Certified Acceptance Corp sticker. 65 which grossed $600,000.
Much smaller was an 1854-S Coronet gold $2.50 Quarter Eagle rated Very Good 10 by PCGS which sold for $360,000. It also has its origins in the California Gold Rush. It was one of 246 minted at the San Francisco Mint and is among the smallest mintages of any regular-issue U.S. coin. Today, there are perhaps a dozen.
At that time, people could deposit gold at the United States Mint and request coins, with most preferring large denominations. Heritage writes that researcher Dan Owens believes these 246 quarter eagles were minted primarily to test dies and coin presses.
Mintmark collecting had not taken hold at the time, and the issue fell under collectors’ radars until the early 20th century, when its rarity was noticed.
Heritage traced the offered example back to the American Numismatic Association auction in 1979. The firm calls it “worn but presentable”, noting: “As often seen with this issue, no more wear is evident on the reverse than on the obverse.” Still, the cataloguer observed an absence of prominent distracting marks, with light golden-yellow surfaces, concluding: “The overall presentation is quite attractive for this historic gold rarity.”