1848 $2.50 Liberty CAL. on reverse PCGS XF45. This is a highly-coveted and collectible quarter eagle variety by several sectors of the marketplace. Those students of U.S. gold, the Quarter Eagle series, gold commemoratives and pioneer gold are all interested in knowing about the availability of this issue. Lately we’ve only seen NGC graded examples hit the market while three PCGS VF examples and a PCGS MS64. No PCGS XF to AU coins have been publicly made available since 2011.
We don’t think this coin will last long on our website. For the reasons previously mentioned and it’s relative affordability should normally be enough. The russet red toning this coin has developed over the years, however, is perhaps the primary reason this will most likely go in a day or two. 1848 CAL.s just don’t come this colorful and we know of several buyers who just lie in wait for such opportunities. The PCGS published price is $45,000. You’re paying a little more for this outstanding and seldom encountered color.
The History Behind the CAL Gold $2.50
On January 24, 1848, James Wilson Marshall noticed some small flakes of yellow metal near the Sutter’s Mill project outside Coloma, California. Marshall’s discovery turned out to be gold, touching off one of the largest voluntary migration of humans the world has ever known — the California Gold Rush.
In December 1848, the Military Governor of California, Col. R.B. Mason, sent 228 ounces of newly mined gold to the Secretary of War, William L. Marcy. Marcy forwarded the gold to the Philadelphia Mint, with instructions to use the gold for Congressional Medals for Generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott. Any leftover gold was to be turned into specially marked Quarter Eagles. 1,389 1848-dated Quarter Eagles were struck from the California gold shipment, each one stamped with a small “CAL.” in the upper reverse field. The stamping appears to have been done while the coins were still in the press, as none of the obverse features appear to have been flattened.
A mere 1,389 quarter eagles of 1848 were stamped with the abbreviation CAL. on the upper reverse. Garrett and Guth, in their 100 Greatest U.S. Coins, raise an interesting question about this issue: “Why just this one batch of Quarter Eagles was counterstamped (with CAL.) is a mystery. If the goal were to show the gold’s origin, the same should have been done for the millions upon millions of gold coins created in later years from the steady stream of gold that flowed out of California.” Possible answers to this question notwithstanding, many numismatists consider the 1848 CAL to be the nation’s first commemorative coin.