1852 $5 Wass Molitor Five Dollar, Small Head PCGS AU55. K-1, Rarity-7. While the Wass, Molitor & Co. five dollar coins were admirable in their adherence to strict standards of value, they were typically not well-made. In his definitive 1982 publication, Kagin notes, “These coins are among the poorest struck of all private coins.” The present AU55 example is one of a total of only 11 coins graded by PCGS, and ranks behind an AU58 and a sole MS60. Both sides retain much of their original mint luster. This coin offers outstanding eye appeal, the highest available technical quality, and intense historic interest. It retains much luster, and obviously spent only a short time in circulation before being snatched out, likely by some distant Californian in search of a memento. The date and peripheral legends are always found weak, as here, although the central devices on each side are relatively bold. A smattering of light, undistracting abrasions can be seen on each side. A must-have example for the advanced Territorial gold collector.
A search through our auction records reveals that this is the third-graded example and is well within the Condition Census. The Wass, Molitor coins are popular for their reverse inscriptions IN CALIFORNIA GOLD or SAN FRANCISCO CALIFORNIA on the reverse, tying them forever to those mythic events in California that changed so much of U.S. history, including U.S. numismatic history.
Roster of 1852 Wass, Molitor & Co. Small Head Five Dollar Gold Pieces, K-1
1. MS60 PCGS. Haig Koshkarian Collection (American Numismatic Rarities, 3/2004), lot 1092, realized $39,100; Kagin plate coin.
2. AU55 PCGS. The present coin. Denver Signature (Heritage, 8/2006), lot 5786, as AU55 NGC; realized $28,750; crossed to PCGS and offered in a string of internet auctions in 2006-2007.
3. XF45 PCGS. Louis Eliasberg, Sr.; Eliasberg Estate; Eliasberg Collection, Part I (Bowers and Merena, 5/1996), lot 356; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2014), lot 5632, realized $35,250.
4. XF40 PCGS. Jascha Heifetz Collection (Superior, 10/1989), lot 5552; Spring Quartette Sale (Bowers and Merena, 3/1992), lot 2362; ANA Signature Sale (Heritage, 7/1993), lot 5876, as XF45 uncertified.
5. VF30. Colonel James W. Ellsworth; Wayte Raymond and John Work Garrett via Knoedler Galleries in 1923; John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University; Garrett Collection, Part II (Bowers and Ruddy, 3/1980), lot 942. Breen plate coin.
6. VF. Nathan M. Kaufman Collection (RARCOA, 8/1978), lot 52.
7. VF20. Jascha Heifetz Collection (Superior, 10/1989), lot 5553.
8. VF. H.L. Hill of San Francisco; purchased by James A. Stack on June 26, 1936; Stack-Teich Collection (Stack’s, 1/1990), lot 331.
9. VF. Numisma ’95 (RARCOA-Akers, 11/1995), lot 2662.
10. Fine+. Kenyon Vickers Painter; ANA Convention Auction (Jess Peters, 8/1973), lot 1012.
11. Fine. Dalton Family Collection (Stack’s, 12/1975), lot 1009; Coles Collection (Stack’s, 10/1983), lot 256.
12. AU Details NCS. Estate of Samuel Mills Damon (Doyle New York, 3/2006), lot 2646.
13. Grade unknown. Celina Coin Company; Josiah K. Lilly; Smithsonian Institution.
Roster of 1852 Wass, Molitor & Co. Small Head Five Dollar Gold Pieces, K-1a
1. AU50 PCGS. Samuel Berngard Collection (Stack’s, 7/2008), lot 2244, realized $40,350. This piece, believed to be unique, was struck on a thicker planchet intended for the Wass, Molitor $10 coins. The issue is listed separately in Donald Kagin’s Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States, but this coin appears in the PCGS population data for the K-1 issue.
A. Grade unknown. DeWitt Smith; Virgil Brand in 1908 (Brand Journal number 47409).
B. Grade unknown. H.O. Granberg, exhibited at the 1914 ANS Exhibition; Waldo Newcomer; B. Max Mehl, circa 1931.
C. Fine-VF. Dr. George Alfred Lawrence Collection (Thomas Elder, 6/1929), lot 1405.
D. Extremely Fine, original mint luster. William Forester Dunham Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1941), lot 2376. Mehl considered this specimen finest-known, possibly an early appearance of the coin in number 1 above.
E. XF45 PCGS. Central States Bullet Sale (Heritage, 4/1994), lot 1504.
F. Grade unknown. A specimen owned by the Union Bank of California
G. Grade Unknown. Offered in Joel Rettew’s FPL’s for Spring 1976 and Winter 1976; Auction Sale (Early American History, 6/2001), lot 1475.
H. Very Fine+. ANA Convention Auction (Jess Peters, 8/1973), lot 1011.
I. Choice About Uncirculated. John A. Beck Collection ( Abner Kreisberg, 1/1975), lot 717.
From The Riverboat Collection. (PCGS#10339)