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BG- 310, 1856 California Gold Rush Circulating Fractional Gold 50C, Liberty Octagonal PCGS MS61 R6+ Ex. Jay Roe


There have been 18 of this issue graded by PCGS. There are four in MS61, with nine finer. Obverse presents the left-facing Coroneted Liberty head inspired by the Federal coin issues of the 1850s, surrounded by thirteen stars, upon an octagonal flan. The reverse of this desired issue offers a wreath with berries neatly tied at the bottom with a ribbon. Four pairs of berries are found on the left branch of the wreath. Centered within the wreath is the date 1856. Surrounding the wreath is HALF DOL. CALIFORNIA GOLD. Below the wreath is the mintmark 'N.' for French jeweler Antoine Louis Nouvizillet of San Francisco.


Satirical magazine illustration of an "Independent Gold Hunter on His Way to California," circa 1850. Photo: Wikipedia.

Robert H. Lande, specialist on California Fractional Gold, writes that these Period 1 coins (1852-1856) are "plain, sparse, minimalist, unadorned, and basic." There was a serious effort on the part of the jewelers to mimic the federal government's then current $1 gold coin. To that end, over 99 percent of the Period 1 California Fractional Gold coins feature the iconic Liberty head motif. Lande writes, "...the resemblance between the period's gold U.S. $1.00 pieces and many of the California gold...pieces is uncanny..." These diminutive gold coins fit the bill of meeting the shortage of small change. Aesthetics are not a concern when producing emergency coinage. Why did such coins carry similar designs? Lande writes, "Once some had been accepted as money, it would have been advantageous for minters to strike pieces that were similar to the previously issued and accepted pieces."




1856 Gold 50C Liberty Head Octagonal, initial N on reverse. High Rarity-6.

  • Period One - circulating issues between 1852 and 1856.
  • Redbook Type: Small Liberty Head / Date Within Wreath Value Below HALF DOL
  • Made by Antoine Louis Nouizillet.

Obverse: 13 stars. Large head. All stars near or touching the border except for the 11th star.  Same as BG-309.

Reverse:  HALF DOL. CALIFORNIA GOLD. initial N between the wreath and the rim. 1856 within wreath. 4 pairs of berries on left branch, 5 on right.  ALI of CALIFORNIA is above open part of wreath.

Note: One example examined has no date on the reverse. A 30x power lens shows no evidence of a faint or partial image of a date.

More Information
PCGS # 10435
BG Number 310
Grading Service PCGS
Year of Issue 1856
Grade MS61
Denom Type California Fractional Gold
Numeric Denomination Gold 50C
Mint Location Private Issue
Designation NONE
Circ/UnCirc Uncirculated
Strike Type Business
Holder Variety BG-310
Grade Add On NONE
Holder Type N/A

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