1849 $5 Norris, Gregg & Norris Reeded Edge PCGS AU58
After the discovery of gold in California in 1848, the influx of prospectors and fortune-seekers far exceeded the coin supply, causing serious financial hardship. Trading in gold dust and nuggets was haphazard at best and susceptible to fraud. In the spring of 1849, partners Thomas H. Norris, Hiram A. Norris, and Charles Gregg established in Benicia City what was the first mint in the territory. Their firm was the first mentioned in the local press. In the May 31, 1849 Alta California, the editors noted a five dollar gold coin struck at nearby Benicia City, noting “In general appearance it resembles the United States coin of the same value, but it bears the private stamp of ‘Norris, Grieg [sic] & Norris’, and is in other particulars widely different.” It is interesting that it was described as resembling federal coins of the time, when in actuality it is notably different. In 1849, Norris, Gregg & Norris struck several varieties of $5 gold pieces with plain and reeded edges as well as with or without a period after the word ALLOY. The coins seem to have been accepted at the time as borne out by the variety of grades observed. Some brokers questioned the coins, but assays by Jacob R. Eckfeldt and William E. DuBois substantiated their purity. At some point around 1850, Norris, Gregg & Norris established a branch in Stockton. A solitary 1850-dated $5 coin is known marked Stockton and is essentially noncollectable. The firm vanished with no indication of when they ceased operations; references to the coins in local papers had ceased by 1851. Probably never struck in any significant quantity, these coins stand as testimony to their brief minting operations in the gold fields. A lovely example for the serious California Gold Rush student and the nest territorial cabinet.