1852 US ASSAY $50 887
NGC AU551852 $50 Assay Office Fifty Dollar, 887 Thous. K-13. Graded NGC AU55. In 1852, John L. Moffat left the firm that bore his name. Moffat & Co. reorganized as Curtis, Perry, and Ward, and continued operation as the U.S. Assay Office of Gold. Slugs were produced with modified dies. The central design remained the same while the obverse peripheral lettering was changed to read UNITED STATES ASSAY OFFICE OF GOLD SAN FRANCISCO CALIFORNIA.
This is an attractive example of the now-famous fifty dollar ''slugs'' that were produced in great numbers during the early years of the California Gold Rush (1849-1854). The Gold Rush occurred in a remote location, far from the nearest official U.S. coinage facility, resulting in complications that arose from the need for local circulating money. Numerous foreign coins were used for the purpose, while officials struggled to convince federal authorities of a better solution: an official U.S. mint facility located in San Francisco. That facility did not materialize until 1854, and in the meantime the so-called United States Assay Office of Gold was one of the forerunners that served as a temporary stopgap measure.
Struck in 887 fineness under the authority of the United States Assay Office of Gold, Augustus Humbert assayer, the 1852 K-13 octagonal fifty dollar slugs are perhaps the most recognized numismatic artifacts of the historic Gold Rush era. The Reeded Edge fifties of this period were much easier to produce than the older Lettered Edge Humbert pieces. Accordingly, they were struck in large numbers and widely accepted throughout the region and in overseas trade. Easily recognized in their day, most examples were later turned in and melted for recoinage at the San Francisco Mint when that facility opened in 1854.