1850 Baldwin & Co. (San Francisco) $5 PCGS AU55. K-2, R.5. Lightly toned with some luster evident. Very sharply struck with rich and deep orange gold suggesting a high copper content in the alloy. Kagin, page 279, notes that other examples exist with a bright yellow appearance from high silver content in the alloy.
This example is from the same dies as that in Eliasberg, however, without the heavy die break at star 12 on the obverse. The reverse has the final A in CALIFORNIA cut over an errant upside down V. A crack is noted from the border through top right serif of M, top of V, and wing tip to border over C.
All Baldwin dies are by Kuner. On March 15, 1850, the firm bought out F. D. Kohler’s assaying and coining apparatus (as Kohler was then anticipating appointment to the office of State Assayer, which duly occurred six weeks later). On May 1, Baldwin & Co. began advertising in the Pacific News as “Successors to F.D.KOHLER & Co. / Assayers, refiners and coiners / Manufacturers of jewelry, etc. / George C. Baldwin and Thos. S. Holman. / All kinds of engraving. Our coins redeemable on presentation.” Their operation was evidently successful, since during the first three months of 1851 alone they coined at least $590,000 face value — $60,000 more than Humbert’s federal Assay Office. Jealousy from competitor James King of William resulted in tests conducted on Baldwin coinage by Augustus Humbert which found them to be slightly underweight. James King of William sent the test results to the newspapers who promptly began a smear campaign which quickly got out of control. Baldwin ended up leaving California by April 15, 1851 over this issue. The public outcry ended up enhancing James King of Williams reputation, and seeing an opportunity, bought up all the Baldwin gold coins for substantially less than their true value, and sent them off to Augustus Humbert for recoining into $50 slugs, thus Baldwin netted himself a tidy profit. By the end of 1851, Baldwin coinage had virtually disappeared.
This example last appeared for public sale in our 2008 Sealed BId Auction featuring the estate of Thomas Jones. Prior to that, Tom had acquired this coin from the Goldberg auction company in May of 2006.