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Lot 3467

Image Information

Type Coin
Title Lot 3467
Date 1849
Side reverse
Grade 58
Service NGC
Service Catalog # 10236
Denomination $10
Description (1849) $10 Miners Bank Ten Dollar AU58 NGC. CAC. K-1, R.6. The Miners Bank ten dollar gold piece was one of the earliest private gold issues of the California Gold Rush, and it was the only design and denomination issued by the pioneer firm. Examples are always in demand because of the coin's historical importance and rarity. Probably 25-30 examples survive today in all grades, and high-grade pieces are very rare. The design of the coins was simple, with the denomination TEN D. in the middle of the obverse, flanked by a star on each side, with MINERS, BANK above and SAN FRANCISCO below. The reverse featured an eagle with arrows and olive branch, similar to the device on federal ten dollar gold coins of the time, with CALIFORNIA above and 13 stars below. The star and letter punches on the obverse are from a different set than the reverse, and the obverse workmanship is cruder, suggesting the dies were prepared by different engravers. The firm of Wright & Co., Exchange Brokers was established on July 2, 1849, with offices on the corner of Washington and Kearney Streets in Portsmouth Square, San Francisco. The principals were Stephen A. Wright, Samuel W. Haight, James C.L. Wadsworth, and John Thompson. Miners Bank was a subsidiary of Wright & Co., but the early history of the firm is difficult to follow, since the partners were involved in several business ventures at different times during the Gold Rush era. The first mention of Miners Bank actually predates the formal establishment of Wright & Co. by several months, as paper money from the Miners Bank is known with an issue date of March 1, 1849, signed by Wright as president and Haight as cashier. Perhaps inspired by the example of Norris, Gregg, & Norris, Wright & Co. proposed to issue five and ten dollar coins in the summer of 1849 and petitioned the customs collector to receive those issues on August 7: {blockquote}"They (Wright & Co.) are willing to give bonds to any amount required by the Collector of this Port that their coin shall be of equal (if not more) value than the coins of the United States Mint."{/blockquote} The petition was denied. Undaunted, Wright & Co. proceeded to issue coins of the ten dollar denomination under the name of Miners Bank (the firm was reorganized under that name in November). The firm's name is variously punctuated as Miners Bank, Miner's Bank, and Miners' Bank in contemporary accounts, and the words appear as Miners, Bank on the coins themselves. The pieces were actually struck by Kohler & Co., using the time-honored method of sledge hammer striking, since no coin press was available. According to sworn testimony by James Wadsworth, Kohler & Co. struck coins for Miners Bank from August 1849 until January 1, 1850. Those were not dated, and two varieties are known to present-day collectors. This example represents the K-1 variety, struck in gold-copper alloy, with a wider flan than the K-2 variety, which was struck in gold-silver alloy. It was extremely unusual for a California gold issue to be alloyed with copper, prompting Donald Kagin to theorize that the K-1 pieces might have been struck in the East, where copper was more available, as die trials. There is some disagreement over which side is the obverse, but we follow Kagin and the Guide Book in designating the side with the eagle as the reverse. Initially, the coins must have circulated widely, as an example reached New Orleans and was assayed there by William P. Hoit, Assayer of the New Orleans Mint, on October 16, 1849. Hoit found the ten dollar gold piece had an intrinsic value of $9.65. Later assays at New Orleans and Philadelphia indicated the average value of the Miners Bank coins was a more reasonable $9.87, but the issue soon fell into disrepute, and merchants would only accept the coins at a steep discount. Miners Bank was dissolved on January 14, 1850, and most of their pieces were melted for reminting at an early date. While the coins were definitely out of favor as a medium of exchange, they were prized by collectors from the earliest days of the hobby. They began to appear at auction as early as the Sixth Semi-Annual Sale (W. Elliot Woodward, 3/1865), lot 2819: {blockquote}"Ten dollar piece, without date; obv. With California above and stars below: rev. 'Miners' Bank, San Francisco,' 'Ten D.' across the field of the coin; fine and scarce."{/blockquote} The lot realized $16, to "French," who also purchased the 1861 Paquet Reverse double eagle, which was described in the previous lot in the catalog in its first auction appearance. The current price realized record for the Miner's Bank issue is $230,000, brought by the uncertified MS64 specimen in lot 1076 of the Archangel Collection (Stack's, 11/2006). The present piece is an attractive near-Mint example, with well-detailed design elements that show the slightest trace of wear on the high points. The orange-gold surfaces are lightly abraded and show a few hints of saffron and violet. Traces of prooflike reflectivity are evident in sheltered areas. This coin will be a welcome addition to a fine collection of Territorial gold. Census: 5 in AU58, 8 finer (8/14). Ex: Somerset Collection (Bowers and Merena, 5/1992), lot 1805; Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society. Realized $54343.75. Description courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

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