One of the 100 Greatest U.S. Coins
Q. David Bowers, the most prolific author in the field of numismatics, named it “the signature coin of the California Gold Rush.” It is number thirty-five in The 100 Greatest U.S. Coins and will be featured in the upcoming book by Adam Crum entitled TGold Coins and Ingots of Augustus Humbert: U.S. Assayer of San Francisco, 1849-1859.
The Augustus Humbert $50 gold ingots, as they were legally termed (known today as “slugs”), are unique due to their size, octagonal shape and California Gold Rush provenance. They represent an expanding area of numismatics that remains an undervalued segment of the rare coin market.
Humbert ingot a special example of territorial coinage
One of the many challenges created by the fast and furious arrival of thousands of people to the California Gold Rush was insufficient coinage to conduct simple, mundane financial transactions. Weighing gold dust and nuggets was often inaccurate and coins issued by the U.S. government were utilized primarily for banking, gambling and paying customs; not ordinary business. Private minters quickly filled the void, even though they were prohibited to do so by the United States Constitution. However, people soon discovered that what these private minters had to offer was also suspect, since the value marked on one of their gold coins wasn’t necessarily a function of its gold content.
Then in 1851, Congress authorized Moffat & Company, under the direction of official Assayer of the United States Augustus Humbert, to strike substantial eight-sided ingots of pure gold as legal tender. Charles C. Wright was commissioned to engrave the original dies that Humbert carried with him to California. Humbert arrived in San Francisco on January 30, 1851 and the first fifty-dollar coins of nearly 2.75 troy ounces of 887 gold were issued on February 14th.
Humbert ingots continued to be struck in 1852 under the authority of both the United States Assay Office and its successor, the United States Assay Office of Gold. Variations in the ingots over that two year period are found in the edges (lettered and reeded), reverse designs and/or fineness of the gold content. Because they were technically ingots and not coins, they were not required to be of the same 90% purity as federal gold coins. Consequently, the Humbert ingots can be found in finesses of .880, .884, .887 and .900. Some varieties required as many as 14 steps to produce a single coin.
Subtle details and history combine to make the Humbert coins highly desirable
The Humbert coins are a unique example of territorial coinage and represent what many would consider the most fascinating period in the history of California. In addition to their place in history, the subtle details of the Humbert coins also add to their desirability.
- Prior to the staggering gold discoveries in California, along with the highly inflated Western economy, there hadn’t been a need for such a large gold coin.
- Charles Cushing Wright, probably the most skillful medal engraver of the era, artfully rendered the design of an eagle perched on a rock with a scroll in its beak, clutching a shield, a group of arrows and an olive branch.
- Uniqueness. A handsome engine-turned spiral decorates the reverse (with either a target in the center or the number “50”), a design that connects the coins in a very personal and unique way to Augustus Humbert, who was a watchmaker in New York City prior to his position as assayer.
- Rarity. The mass melting of early gold rush era coinage, a function of new U.S. government issued coins being struck at the new San Francisco Mint, contributed to making the Humbert ingots rare. According to The 100 Greatest U.S. Coins, “although thousands of United States double eagles were found in the wreckage of the steamer SS Central America, very few fifty-dollar ‘slugs’ were discovered (13), most of which were Augustus Humbert issues.”
Renowned numismatist calls Humbert coin a beautiful object in and of itself
Perceiving it to be an excellent value at $600,000, Mark Salzberg, one of the most sophisticated numismatists in the world, recently purchased the Augustus Humbert ingot from Monaco Rare Coins. The coin is described as: “Augustus Humbert. $50 Gold. Reeded Edge. K-5. Rarity-5. 880 THOUS. MS-65 * (NGC), boasts a combined PCGS and NGC Population (1851 $50 Reeded Edge, 880 THOUS variety only) of just 1; 0 finer.”
Mr. Salzberg, who is Chairman of the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) and Numismatic Conservation Services (NCS), stated that “This was the most memorable coin I have graded all year, a true pleasure to see such an original coin with original luster. ” Salzberg was named American Numismatist Association’s 2006 Numismatist of the Year in recognition of his overall devotion and dedication to the American Numismatics Association and numismatics.
The rarity, quality and historical significance of the Humbert coin purchased by Mr. Salzberg make it a coin or ingot that even the most experienced numismatists may only be privileged to see a few times in their lives. For more information about these exciting and undervalued rarities, please contact Monaco Rare Coins at 1-888-900-9948.
Gold Coins make more sense than ever
Gary Dugan, chief investment officer for Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management, commented in London’s Daily Telegraph that: “It is amazing how many clients want physical gold. They are so worried; they want a portable asset in their house. The metal should do well whatever happens. If deflation sets in…it will serve as a safe-haven, but if massive monetary stimulus gains traction and sets off inflation once again it will also come into its own as a store of value. It’s win-win either way.” Precious metals and commodities specialist Jim Sinclair says that as the dollar falls, gold will be “going to the moon.”
With more and more investors seeking unencumbered investments, gold, more particularly rare gold, looks more desirable than ever. Gold is the only unencumbered, time-tested asset on the face of the earth. It provides overall portfolio protection because of…
- Diversification. Gold can reduce overall risk and creates the ultimate hedge against inflation.
- Security. Gold coins possess the security and intrinsic value of bullion…and the government will never have to bail out gold.
- Privacy. Gold is a portable storage of wealth that can be kept secure in a private vault.
- Certification. Quality rare gold coins are certified by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.
- Liquidity. There are many ways to easily liquidate gold.
- Profitability. Many economic analysts are predicting higher prices for gold, and rare highly collectible gold coins, similar to works of art, are in a class by themselves.
- Simplicity. Gold does not require daily buy/sell decisions or monthly statements to decipher.
- Rarity and History. Numismatic quality rare gold coins are unique and a very tangible representation of our historical heritage.