1855 $50 gold Wass Molitor & Co., PCGS XF40. According to the PCGS Museum of Holders, it looks as though this Wass Molitor $50 specimen was certified by PCGS between October of 1998 and February of 2002, when the bar codes were located on the back of the holder, not on the front. What we see is what we love on these numismatic pieces of Fine Art – old gold toning. Both the obverse and reverse are bathed in that coppery gold that only comes with time, and most of the higher points have a lighter gold coloration, due to past contact. We see nice even wear accompanied by several contact marks – a feature which is nearly ALWAYS seen on these massive issues. The PCGS population is 14 coins in XF40 with 28 finer.
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.