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2 California fractional gold coins

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    Posted 11 years ago

    (2 items)

    Two tiny coins, very thin and labelled California gold. 1856 and 1857. Would like to know if they are real or fake. Any info would be appreciatated.

    Mystery Solved
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    1. YardSaleDave, 11 years ago
      Three things stand out, one is that they don't look like gold, two is that there are no denomination's marked on the coins and third is that they are poorly struck.
    2. nanned, 11 years ago
      Thanks for the comments. You are right on all three. The photos do not show the gold finish very well, but in person, they are gold in color but appear to be gold plated vs solid gold. I found references at for both as possible variants of the Wreath 4 and 5 indexes. Also, these references do not show any denomination. Still not sold on the authenticity, however. Need more info.
    3. YardSaleDave, 11 years ago
      Thanks for that web addy, I learned a few things about California gold. Two misconceptions I had were, demoninational coins were always marked with the demomination, also the Bear myth, that no legitamate coins were stamped with a Bear.
      Let us know if your coins turn out to be legit, and Good Luck.
    4. Mike Locke, 11 years ago
      These are two pieces that were probably made by Herman Brand circa 1890-1900, although they could have been made by Herman Kroll in a later period. Kroll acquired Brand's tooling some time around 1900, creating some confusion as to who made what. They are both "wreath5" by the classification on my website. The 1857 piece is illustrated on my website.

      They were not made in the 1850s
      They are not solid gold
      They are not circulating coins

      However, they are "authentic" California Gold souvenirs.

      Very few California Gold coins in these fractional sizes circulated. None of the non-denominated versions circulated, and the evidence only supports that the denominated pieces circulated in 1852-3.

      Be careful with the terms "fake", "replica", "reproduction", "restrike", and "authentic" because they are currently so misused as to approach being meaningless in this context.
    5. Nanned, 11 years ago
      Thank you so much for helping me "solve the mystery.". Your expertise on this subject is, without a doubt, the absolute best. The information you gave me is way more than I expected, and truly appreciate it. I now believe these coins were purchased in California in the early 1900's by a family member who was traveling the world, and purchased many souvenirs along the way.
    6. AC_Dwyer AC_Dwyer, 11 years ago
      @ Nanned,
      Just to add a little to the conversation. The reason the denomination disappeared from these small gold coins is that the Coinage Act of 1864 made private coinage illegal. However, it didn't get enforced much until the 1880s so denominated private coins continued to be produced until then. Then the secret service started raiding manufacturers and confiscating dies and occasionally arresting the manufacturer. Not only did they target gold producers, but even copper cent imitations. So the manufacturers removed the denomination to get around the law.

      The coins did circulate during the early 1850s due to a coin shortage in California. Gold coming from the gold fields had to be shipped to New Orleans to get minted into coins so private local companies minted their own coins to fill the void.

      The reason the coins never circulated much after 1854, was because the San Francisco mint opened that year alleviating the coin shortage in California. These small-denomination coins only contained about 85% of the face value in gold whereas U.S. Mint produced coins were full weight, so they were quickly relegated to mere souvenirs even though they still had a denomination on them.
    7. AC_Dwyer AC_Dwyer, 11 years ago
      One thing to add, as the years went on these tokens contained less and less gold with many simply being gold plated.
    8. nanned, 11 years ago
      Thanks so much - Dave, Mike, and AC - for your contributions in solving this mystery. It's a fascinating story.

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