By Adam Crum
As I have said, market trends favor the Civil War era based on increasing awareness from programming and focus at this “sesquicentennial anniversary” time. On top of that, however, any numismatics that have a desirable pedigree is a plus, because it strengthens two important value attributes, popularity and historical significance, by establishing a concrete tangible connection to the past.
150 years ago today, December 13, 1864, was the day that America’s worst war was decidedly coming to a close as Union General, William T. Sherman took the great Confederate stronghold that separated him from his supply lines.
The Battle of Fort McAllister, where Union forces overwhelmed a small Confederate force defending the strategically important Fort near Savannah, Georgia, took place during the final stages of Sherman’s “March to the Sea.”
As devastating and controversial as Sherman’s March was, it is hard to imagine today how isolated California was in the West. 1864 was the year that Mark Twain worked in San Francisco as a journalist for the Daily Morning Call before his worldwide fame as a humorist. There he published multiple articles about the city’s troubled U.S. Branch Mint, which was founded in 1854 as a result of the California gold rush, such as this article in The Call, August 10, 1864:
OUR U.S. BRANCH MINT
“When the Branch Mint was established in this city, it was upon the calculation that its annual coinage would amount to about five millions. Upon that supposition, its organization as to number of officials, accommodation, and the pay of the employes, was fixed. Although the coinage has about quadrupled what was calculated upon, neither accommodations, employes nor compensation have been increased. On the contrary, the pay is now in green-backs instead of gold, and the payment often delayed, as at present, for four months, through inefficiency on the part of some one in Washington.”
In 1864 San Francisco, it is clear from Twain that “green-backs” were undesirable, and coinage was real money. The incredibly popular coinage denomination, gold double eagle, is an awesome long term asset in any collection. Below is an example of an item that I find especially attractive including the fact that it is from 1864 San Francisco branch mint, and it survived in almost mint state condition due to its part of a failed war-recovery effort of the SS Republic.
As the war concluded in 1865, hard money of gold and silver coinage was in very short supply in the South. The SS Republic was en route from New York to New Orleans with passengers and cargo, but was lost in a hurricane on October 25, 1865. The passengers and crew escaped, yet a fortune in much needed coins and cargo to help rebuild New Orleans’ post-Civil War economy sank 1,700 feet to the bottom of the Atlantic, off the coast near Savannah, Georgia.
Considering this coin’s CAC approval of its exceptional quality for an AU58 condition and its amazing pedigree and popularity, this beautiful specimen would make an excellent addition to any collection.
Happy Holidays, and may the coming of the new year bring health, happiness and prosperity to you and your loved ones.