1855 $50 gold Wass Molitor & Co., PCGS VG08. PCGS shows a population of 2 coins in Very Good condition (08) and we now have handled both of them. It’s the lowest grade you’ll find for this ever-so-popular pioneer gold coin. These are always in demand but sometimes the price puts them out of reach of your average collector. But we’ve found they’re money in the bank as long as they are purchased reasonably and held for a period of time.
The firm of Wass, Molitor & Co. was founded by two Hungarian political refugees in 1851. They originally went into business only as refiners and smelters. According to the “San Francisco Herald” of November 19, 1851, “These gentlemen have acquired a thorough and practical knowledge of mining in all its ramifications in the celebrated School of Mines in Germany.” This would indicate they were among the few men dealing with gold in California at the time who had any professional qualifications. Most of the others were rank amateurs. The firm’s equipment and machinery was among the best that could be found in California.
It was during the latter part of 1851 that the shortage of small gold coins was severely felt. The regular United States issues, and those foreign coins accepted by the Treasury, were all hoarded to pay customs duties on foreign goods imported into California. Yielding to this pressure, Wass, Molitor & Co. issued their first $5.00 gold piece on January 8, 1852 and a $10.00 denomination soon followed. None were apparently struck during the years 1853 and 1854, but $10.00 and $50.00 pieces were produced in 1855. Their coins were extremely neat in appearance and had on characteristic that made them most unusual.