1851 $50 HUMBERT K-2 880 No ''50''
NGC MS60+This 1851 Augustus Humbert $50. K-2. 880 THOUS., MS 60+ by NGC. The 1851 $50 Humbert Slug is the signature coin of the California Gold Rush is a Historically Significant Territorial Gold Specimen with a gold rush providence. The inscription ''880 Thous,'' tells us that this slug is 88% gold with 12% alloy. Perhaps as much as half of the alloy is silver, imparting the distinct green-gold appearance to this impressive Humbert slug. This is an uncommonly well-preserved example of the K-2 variety of Humbert fifty dollar with 880 fineness and no ''50'' on the reverse.
Augustus Humbert, the official Assayer of the United States, opened the west coast Assay Office in 1851, to act as a provisional U.S. Mint before the first San Francisco Mint was approved. Humbert minted these historic $50 octagonal gold ingots weighing nearly 2.75 troy ounces of California Gold Rush Gold that were first issued on February 14, 1851. These were not technically ''coins'' but they were called ''Slugs'' because these heavy pieces could knock a man out in a fight!
Miners could deposit gold dust and would receive fair value in the form of a $50 gold slug. These Assay pieces were the preferred tender which effectively removed private gold coins from circulation. Unfortunately, most were unceremoniously melted and re-coined into double eagles at the new San Francisco Mint and very few were preserved today. The Humbert and U.S. Assay Office slugs were official government coinage issues, unlike other private California gold issues, and they should be collected as part of the federal gold series.
The operations of the United States Assay Office in 1851 and 1852 represent an important chapter in the coinage history of the California Gold Rush and, indeed, the nation as a whole. This rare piece, from Humbert's first year as assayer in California, offers the advanced collector an opportunity to own an impressive memento of the United States' frontier history. The iconic Humbert octagonal $50 slugs have become more symbolic of the Gold Rush era than any other issue in the minds of collectors. Their unique octagonal shape has made them some of most desirable ''oddities'' in the numismatic marketplace. They have earned a place in the famed book by Jeff Garrett, ''The 100 Greatest U.S. Coins.''