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50 Dollars, United States, 1851

50 Dollars, United States, 1851

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This fifty dollar octagonal gold coin—also known as a “slug”—was produced in 1851 in San Francisco. After the California gold rush began in 1849, it became apparent that a mint should be established on the West Coast to remove the need to ship the gold back to Philadelphia to be minted. Prior to Congress approving the San Francisco mint in 1852, California’s delegates passed a bill in 1850 establishing the U.S. Assay Office to assay (weigh and test purity of) gold and mint coins in San Francisco. Augustus Humbert was appointed to serve as the U.S. Assayer in San Francisco. He brought dies engraved by Charles C. Wright to produce coins made by Moffat & Company. On the obverse, or front, of the coin is a spread-winged eagle on the U.S. shield resting upon a rock; in its claws are an olive branch and arrows. Above the eagle is a cartouche containing the coin’s degree of fineness, in this case 887 thousandths. Within the circle is the text “United States of America/FIFTY DOLLS.” Around the edge are the words “Augustus Humbert United States Assayer of Gold California 1851.” On the reverse is a spiral pattern created by and known as “engine turning.”
Object Name
date made
U. S. Assay Office, San Francisco
place made
United States: California
place of issue
United States: California
Physical Description
gold (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
overall:.4 cm x 3.8 cm; 5/32 in x 1 1/2 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Estate of Josiah K. Lilly
See more items in
Work and Industry: National Numismatic Collection
Josiah K. Lilly Jr. Collection
American Enterprise
Coins, Currency and Medals
American Enterprise
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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