The Miners’ Bank was an early gold rush San Francisco business. The firm issued one, three, and five dollar notes on March 1, 1849, and later issued undated fractional denominations. We known that ten dollar gold eagles were struck prior to August 9, 1849, but the firm’s president and cashier, Stephen A. Wright and Samuel Haight, were unsuccessful at petitioning the customs collectors on that date to accept their coins.
There is also evidence the New Orleans Mint assayed several examples of the ten dollar coins on October 16, 1849 and by October 25th the Miners Bank moved forward with their coining operation.
Miner Bank eagles even made it back to the east coast, as an October 12, 1849 edition of the Lowell Daily Journal And Courier published a clip stating “…several five and ten dollar gold pieces, coined in California, have found their way to Boston. They are not so yellow, or so highly finished, as those coined at the mint in Philadelphia…The ten dollar gold piece…around the edge and just inside the rim, are the words “Miners Bank San Francisco;” and directly across the center of the piece is the inscription “Ten D.” (see newspaper picture below)
The firm was dissolved on January 14, 1850, but historical records show many of the coins still circulating along with those created by other 1849 private gold coiners. Then, in an April 11, 1850 report by the Alta California newspaper it was noted: “Brokers refuse to touch it at less than 20 percent discount.” The Miners’ Bank gold coins then quickly became discredited by local assayers. Most were eventually melted by bankers and other arbitragers, often with their alloy converted to U.S. Assay Office “slugs.”
Professional numismatists and collectors have long known that two different varieties of the Miner’s Bank gold eagle were produced, and they are distinctive for either brilliant orange-gold color or attractive green-gold color. It’s been surmised that the orange colored pieces (K-1) were die trials produced in the east, while the green-colored pieces (K-2) were struck in native California gold. It has further been suggested that the K-1 coins were struck with a collar, after which the obverse and reverse dies were transported to California, where the K-2 coins were struck without a collar. These latter coins had the characteristic of weak lettering in CALIFORNIA, being struck on a constricted (crimped) planchet. Because official assays at the time rated these coins at 866 Fine (some even with copper alloy), and valued at about $9.65, they became unpopular and brokers who valued them at $8 apiece (San Francisco Daily Alta California, April 11, 1850, p. 2). This accounts for their short existence and hence, great rarity.
There are only four or five known examples of the constricted (crimped) planchet variety. For the most part, these coins were held by serious collectors and in the rare instance they became available for sale, they usually traded privately. Such an instance occurred at a west coast coin show in 2014, when a certified uncirculated (and the finest known) coin was displayed and available for sale – and coincidentally a collector had brought in his certified About Uncirculated, CAC endorsed coin for possible sale. Not only was this a special occasion having two ultra-rarities in one place, but a wonderful opportunity to compare the two side-by-side. What came next was somewhat disconcerting. We discovered, in fact, a few repeating depressions on both coins that were identical, (or nearly so, since the conditions were obviously different).
The NGC website describes these depressions on coins as: “…abrasions or marks that were transferred from a genuine example onto a counterfeit die that then struck multiple counterfeits with these same flaws. On genuine pieces they’re called marks; on counterfeits they’re called depressions. While they essentially look the same, a depression is repeated on all counterfeits because it is a part of the die. They can be very difficult to identify unless you are familiar with commonly seen counterfeits in a series.”
With this new comparative analysis, an attempt was made to recall all of those known examples for further examination. The end result was that they were removed from their respective certified holders. This lot is the aforementioned coin that was once graded AU58, endorsed by CAC, and still has a published price on the PCGS website of $100,000. Potential Buyers should understand that while somewhat inconclusive (afterall, we do not know exactly WHEN these coins were struck), the grading services will NOT endorse the authenticity of the constricted, or “crimped” border Miner Bank gold eagle any longer.