1848 $2.50 CAL. MS67

CERTIFICATION#: -1650
PCGS#: 7749

Owner's Comments

Estimated grade. Purchased by Louis Eliasberg when he acquired the John Clapp collection in 1942. Earlier from the New York Coin & Stamp Co. in 1905. Purchased at the Bowers & Ruddy Oct '82 Eliasberg sale by Hugh Sconyers for $41,800. Lot #145.

Expert Comments

Ron Guth: On January 24, 1848, James Wilson Marshall noticed some small flakes of yellow metal near the Sutter's Mill project outside Coloma, California. Marshall's discovery turned out to be gold, touching off one of the largest voluntary migration of humans the world has ever known -- the California Gold Rush.

In December 1848, the Military Governor of California, Col. R.B. Mason, sent 228 ounces of newly mined gold to the Secretary of War, William L. Marcy. Marcy forwarded the gold to the Philadelphia Mint, with instructions to use the gold for Congressional Medals for Generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott. Any leftover gold was to be turned into specially marked Quarter Eagles. 1,389 1848-dated Quarter Eagles were struck from the California gold shipment, each one stamped with a small "CAL." in the upper reverse field. The stamping appears to have been done while the coins were still in the press, as none of the obverse features appear to have been flattened. At least one example (the James F. Lindsay - 1978 GENA, Lot 1839 example) shows triple punching.

Beware of forgeries with fake "CAL." punched into regular 1848 Quarter Eagles. This normally results in some flattening of the obverse features opposite the punch. We're not aware of any metallurgical testing having been performed on the various 1848 Quarter Eagles, but we suspect that the California ore of the "CAL."s will contain trace elements in different amounts than in the "Eastern" ore of the regular 1848 Quarter Eagles. Only a single "CAL." punch was used, so any pretender must match the exact positioning and spacing of the lettering and period of the punch on a known genuine piece (see enlarged image above). Placement of the punch relative to other elements on the reverse varies, so this cannot be used as an indicator of authenticity.

Some 1848 "CAL." Quarter Eagles have been called "Proof" in the past (Delp, Miles, Pierce, and Kern), but none were struck from the same dies as true 1848 Proofs.

Sources and/or recommended reading:
"Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins" by Walter Breen

"The PCGS Population Report, April 2003" by The Professional Coin Grading Service

"United States Gold Coins - An Analysis of Auction Records, Volume II, Quarter Eagles 1796-1929" by David W. Akers

David Akers (1975/88): This variety is one of the most famous and popular of all quarter eagles. Because of the interesting history associated with this piece, it has gained a popularity (and an accordingly high price) that exceeds its true rarity. The story behind this popular issue is well known to most collectors. the tiny letters CAL. were punched into the field above the eagle to designate that these coins were minted from the first gold sent to the Philadelphia Mint from California. A small number of extremely choice examples exist. Some of them are fully proof-like and have been sold in the past as "proofs". However, such proofs were not struck with the same dies as the proofs of 1848 (which have a die chip on the neck, the date lower in the field, and the arrowhead detached from the CA of AMERICA) but rather were struck using the circulation dies of 1848. They also lack the sharpness in the hair curls under the ear and therefore, in my opinion, are not really proofs at all but rather first strike, proof-like Uncs.

Diameter: 18.00 millimeters Designer: Christian Gobrecht Edge: Reeded
Mintage: 1,389 Weight: 4.18 grams Metal Content: 90% Gold, 10% Copper
4
17,500
8
26,000
1
12
30,000
15
31,000
20
32,500
25
33,500
2
40
40,000
2
45+
43,500
50+
52,000
53+
57,500
55+
65,000
58+
75,000
60
85,000
62+
105,000
63+
125,000
64+
160,000
65
200,000
3
65+
215,000
66+
290,000
67+
370,000

Rarity and Survival Estimates

Grades Survival Estimate Numismatic Rarity Relative Rarity by Type Relative Rarity by Series
All Grades 162 R-7.3 67 / 147 67 / 147
60 or Better 37 R-8.7 98 / 147 TIE 98 / 147 TIE
65 or Better 10 R-9.5 42 / 147 TIE 42 / 147 TIE

Condition Census

Pos Grade Thumbnail Pedigree and History
1 MS68 PCGS grade  
2 MS67 estimated grade   Madison Collection - Heritage 1/2008:3091, $345,000
2 MS67 estimated grade  

Clausen Family Collection - Heritage 1/2006:3419, $402,500 - Madison Collection - Heritage 1/2008:3091, $345,000

4 MS66 PCGS grade  
4 MS66 PCGS grade