2 1/2 Dollars, United States, 1848

Description (Brief):

One (1) 2 1/2 dollar coin

Description (Brief)

United States, 1848

Description (Brief)

Obverse Image: Left facing Liberty with hair tied in a bun and wearing a coronet. 13 stars around.

Description (Brief)

Obverse Text: LIBERTY / 1848

Description (Brief)

Reverse Image: Eagle with wings outstretched clutching arrows and branch in talons, shield over chest.

Description (Brief)

Reverse Text: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA / CAL. / 2 1/2 D.

In 1848, the largest single gold rush in history was just getting under way in California. This event triggered a mass migration of fortune hunters from around the world. The territory had only recently passed into American hands as an outcome of U.S. victory in the Mexican War. The new California military governor Col. R. B. Mason sent 230 ounces of native bullion to the Secretary of War, who in turn passed the gold on to the Mint.

Much of this first shipment went into large, honorific medals Congress authorized for the winning American generals in the war, Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott. Scott's medal is in the Smithsonian Collection. The rest of the gold was used to make "quarter eagles," or 2½ dollar gold pieces. These became some of the most legendary coins in American numismatic history.

The basic design was standard: the head of Liberty was on one side, a somewhat bellicose eagle on the other. The mint had been striking quarter eagles with these designs for nearly a decade. But closer scrutiny showed that these coins had one odd feature: above the eagle on the reverse, the initials "CAL." These were added by means of a punch.

Precisely 1,389 quarter eagles marked with the CAL stamp were made. Less than 200 still exist. They bear poignant witness to the colorful history of the American West.

Date Made: 1848

Mint: U.S. Mint, PhiladelphiaDesigner: Gobrecht, Christian

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: Pennsylvania, PhiladelphiaProvince: United States: CaliforniaCountry: United StatesPolitical Area: United States

See more items in: Work and Industry: National Numismatic Collection, Coins, Numismatics, Coins, Currency and Medals, Josiah K. Lilly Jr. Collection, Legendary Coins


Exhibition Location:

Related Web Publication: http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/glossary.cfm

Related Publication: Zoomable Image and Details, Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms

Credit Line: Estate of Josiah K. Lilly

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: NU.68.159.0072Catalog Number: 68.159.0072Accession Number: 283645

Object Name: coin

Physical Description: gold (overall material)Measurements: overall: .1 cm x 1.8 cm; 1/32 in x 23/32 in

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746a6-6899-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_835240

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