1850 $10 California Gold Eagle - Baldwin 'Horseman' PCGS AU50


1850 $10 Baldwin “Horseman” design remained so popular that sometime around the turn of the 20th century similar dies were created and used to strike specimens in many different metals. These are called "Restrikes” and were issued at some subsequent date (Breen believes 1906-1910, and quite possibly created for dealer Steven Nagy or even Henry Chapman). Since Kuner lived until 1906, in 1912 it was speculated by Edgar Adams these dies were also the work of the original master, Kuner. NOTE: A great parallel to these Baldwin Restrikes are the Bechtler $5 gold Restrikes issued during the 1920’s. These coins are extremely scarce and highly collectible today, and as such, are also very popular with collectors, and can sell for up to six-figures!

The Baldwin & Co. Restrikes were made in a variety of metals, including a unique gold specimen, silver, copper, brass, lead, and white metal. Gilt specimens in copper and white metal are also known to exist. All of the metal variants are very rare and all are extremely popular with collectors. According to Ron Guth, the dies of these Restrikes are quite similar to the originals, but do show slight differences. For example, the fonts used for the legends on the Restrike issue are different from those used on the Original design. Also Originals have reeded edges; the Restrikes have plain edges.

Today, we have the opportunity to offer a nearly complete set of the highest graded specimens of the Horseman Restrike (missing the lead example) and also an actual circulated example of the original coin – one of only 12 to 15 known to exist in all states-of-preservation. These Restrikes are prohibitively rare and in some cases, rarer than the original 1850 gold issue. Also, some of the rare Justh and Hunter gold ingots recovered from the SS Central America were melted down in 2002 and restrikes of the 1850 $10 Baldwin were created called the “49er Horseman.” These were an overnight success and are frequently marked as “sold out” on popular internet websites.

Gold was discovered on January 24, 1848 near Sutter’s Mill in Coloma. At the time, the territory now known as California was actually a military governorship and Yerba Buena (later called San Francisco) was a small town of just 800 souls located over 3,000 miles away from the commercial centers of the east.

This announcement brought tens-of-thousands of pioneers from all parts of the globe seeking riches. All these wealth-seekers needed food, clothing and a place to live, but most had little money, especially after their arduous journeys.

To make matters worse, the military government ordered import duties on those who arrived to be paid by precious metal -- and to such an extent that there were virtually no gold or silver coins left in circulation. In addition, suddenly there were so many different foreign coins that weights and standards were often completely misunderstood. To solve that problem most merchants used gold dust in trade but this medium’s imprecise nature often resulted in miscalculations of assay and even downright fraud.

So the need for an adequate medium of exchange became paramount.

What occurred next could have been predictable. From within the major commercial ports of New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore —entrepreneurs, jewelers, engravers, die cutters, merchants and Mining Association‘s banded together to take advantage of the lack of a circulating currency and to fill that dire need. Most of these entities purchased or made coining equipment, such as dies, presses, collars, and rolling machines. Most planned to carry or ship this material to the California gold fields. Some just brought coin dies that were prepared and tested in the east to be brought into full operation in the west. As one can imagine, the attrition rate of this equipment was high. Much of it just disappeared and never made it, as those responsible chose to abandon their equipment in favor of the dazzling prospect of quick wealth from panning for gold. 

One such individual, Frederick D. Kohler, a jeweler, fireman, and alderman in New York City, made the trip to California in January of 1849. Upon his arrival, Kohler was contacted by or met with Colonel Jonathan Stevenson, a Mexican War veteran and an individual who had arrived on the scene nearly a year before gold was discovered. By 1849, Stevenson had already amassed a fortune in gold and with his wealth, it is speculated that Stevenson was amassing the minting equipment brought in by other disbanded groups, perhaps buying it up at cents on the dollar. Kohler probably struck a deal with Stevenson, and by employing his metalworking and assaying experiences, proved to be the perfect individual to assaying gold and mint coins. 

Several months later Kohler formed a partnership with fellow NYC fireman David Broderick, and together they both operated one of the first assay businesses in San Francisco. Kohler also employed Albert Kuner, a former Tiffany engraver, to create the dies for Kohler's coins.

Soon enough, however, California state legislature enacted a provision that “There shall be established in the City of San Francisco a State Office for assaying, melting, and refining gold.”  When the act was passed, the obvious choice - Kohler - accepted and was named as the state assayer. He then sold his private assaying business to Baldwin & Co. But before he did, he created at least one copper pattern, the obverse of which is virtually identical to the 1850 Baldwin $10 gold coin featuring a vaquero, or horseman. Interestingly, to the left of the ground base is the signature of A. Kuner. The reverse features the name "Kohler & Co" over a similar eagle design. This copper pattern is unique and is held in a private collection (see attached image)It offers us the earliest clue as to the origins of this fascinating issue we offer here today.

Once Kohler accepted his new government assignment, he either sold or leased his equipment to Baldwin & Co, a partnership made up of George Baldwin and Thomas Holman. Starting in May of 1850, Baldwin & Company made $5, $10 and $20 pieces, dated both 1850 and 1851, for at least eight months thereafter.

Baldwin & Co first introduced Kuner’s design of the 1850 $10 eagle in gold to the general public, featuring a vaquero on horseback. At the time, they had no idea as to how wildly popular this design would be – and how it still remains to this day. The vaquero, or “horseman,” design makes this type among the most famous and avidly sought of all United States and California gold piecesIn fact, the last Original $10 Horseman to sell at public auction realized a whopping $382,000 in 2014. 

Scholarly research recently uncovered the inspiration behind the obverse design for the 1850 Baldwin “horseman” and confirms it was copied from an 1831 print entitled "Californians Throwing the Lasso," published in Narrative of a Voyage to the Pacific and Beering's Straight by F.W. Beechy after a watercolor by William Smyth, one of the original adventurers. The print, and Kuner's fine imitation of it, shows the native dress of a vaquero in Spanish California, the original American cowboys and the etymological origin of the slang "buckaroo." (color plate attached).

A brilliant reserach article can be viewed here at CoinWeek:


More Information
PCGS # 10028
Grading Service PCGS
Grade AU50
Denomination Type California Gold
Numeric Denomination $10
Mint Location Private Issue
Designation NONE
Circulated/UnCirculated Circulated
Strike Type Business
Holder Variety Baldwin
Grade Add On NONE
Holder Type N/A
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