BG- 307, 1856 California Gold Rush Circulating Fractional Gold 50C, Liberty Octagonal, NGC MS65, R5+ Sole Finest Known!
Struck by Frontier, Deviercy & Co. of San Francisco. Out of its unknown mintage, there have been 16 graded by NGC. Of those this is the only one graded MS65--the Sole Finest Known!. The obverse presents a Liberty head that is derivative of the Federal issues of its day. Surrounding her are 13 stars. The reverse displays "1/2/ DOLLAR/ 1856/ ★" within a beaded circle. Outside the circle near the rim is "CALIFORNIA" (L) "GOLD" (R). This piece is very well struck for Fractional Gold. It is semi-prooflike with reflective red fields and frosty devices. There is nice cameo contrast. This is a PQ example and a beauty.
The Joseph Brothers emerged in numismatic history as pioneers of California Fractional Gold. Their Fractional Gold coin business was taken over by Frontier, Deviercy & Co. What they and the other jewelers in San Francisco created was in essence "emergency coinage." Robert H. Lande, specialist on California Fractional Gold, writes that these Period 1 coins (1852-1856) are "plain, sparse, minimalist, unadorned, and basic." Don Kagin, the author of Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States (1981), explains how these coins were produced:
Most of the fractional coins were made by the hammer method.... This was a process of striking where the bottom die was placed on a block, a coin blank was laid upon it, and the top die upon the blank; this top die was then struck by a sledgehammer. Blows of varying intensity would cause potions of one side or edge to be more weakly struck than another.
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