General Introduction to
United States Gold
The Bass Collection Gold
We hope you will enjoy examining the HBRF Permanent Collection of U. S. Gold, Patterns and Currency, and learning more about American numismatics. During the last three decades of his lifetime, Mr. Bass collected several thousand U.S. gold coins, and carefully constructed one of the best collections ever in the history of U.S. numismatics. Following his death in 1998, the best-of-the-best were chosen for this permanent collection, and the rest were put up for sale. This permanent collection contains over 500 of the best, having premier examples of coins, currency and patterns, including some unique items that are not to be found anywhere else. From the 1960s until his recent passing in the spring of 1998, Mr. Bass avidly pursued his love for numismatics. While many series came under his careful eye, it was the field of United States gold coins that interested him the most.
The Harry W. Bass, Jr. Research Foundation, in cooperation with Bowers and Merena Galleries, Inc., has chosen these outstanding selections from his holdings, emphasizing the early era of the gold series, 1795-1834, and included many later pieces as well. With descriptions provided by noted numismatic historians, Q. David Bowers and Mark Borckardt, and photographs by Douglas Plasencia (all from Bowers and Merena Galleries), the coins are each described with their salient features and in many instances, their numismatic and historical significance.
American Gold Coins: An Overview
United States gold coins were first minted in 1795, when the $5 denomination or half eagle was struck, followed in the same year by the $10 eagle. In 1796 the first $2.50 gold quarter eagles were minted. Years later, in 1849, the gold dollar and the $20 double eagle were added to the coinage, followed in 1854 by the $2.50 gold denomination. In 1889, the $1 and $2.50 gold coins were minted for the last time, after which $2.50, $5, $10, and $20 coins were struck intermittently until 1933, when coinage ceased. Soon thereafter, the United States Treasury Department issued a call for citizens to turn in their gold coins. The Philadelphia Mint was the only federal coining facility until 1838, when branch mints were opened at Charlotte (North Carolina), Dahlonega (Georgia), and New Orleans. Coins struck at these branches bore distinguishing letters known as mintmarks, a C, D, or O. In 1854 the San Francisco Mint (S mintmark) opened. The Charlotte and Dahlonega mints closed forever in 1861 at the outset of the Civil War. The New Orleans Mint was shuttered as well, but reopened in 1879, after which gold coins were made there intermittently until 1909. In 1870 the Carson City (CC mintmark) opened in Nevada, and operated until 1885 and again from 1889 to 1893. In 1906 the Denver Mint opened, and produced gold coins intermittently through 1931. It used a D mintmark, which had been used earlier by the long-closed Dahlonega Mint. There was no confusion as the time periods were different. Today, all United States gold coins are highly prized collectors' items. Some are common, others are extremely rare, but all are interesting.
Gold Dollars 1849-1889
Gold dollars, authorized by the Act of March 3, 1849, were minted continuously from 1849 through 1889. In the early years-the era prior to the Civil War-production was accomplished at the Philadelphia, Charlotte, Dahlonega, New Orleans, and San Francisco mints. Later, gold dollars were produced only at Philadelphia, with the sole exception of the 1870-S San Francisco issue.
$2.50 Gold Quarter Eagles 1796-1929
Quarter eagles, first minted in 1796, were struck intermittently until 1829, continuously from that year until 1915, then intermittently until 1929. In various years, examples were struck at the Philadelphia, Charlotte, Dahlonega, Denver New Orleans, and San Francisco mints. The Bass Collection includes important early quarter eagles of the 1796-1834 years, among which are many rarities. Selected later issues representing the Classic Head, Liberty Head, and Indian Head design are included as well.
$2.50 Gold 1854-1889
Three-dollar gold coins, minted continuously from 1854 to 1889, were a special interest of Mr. Bass, and in his lifetime he completed a full set, including the only known example of the fabulous 1870-S (struck at San Francisco). are extensively represented in the present sale, although the "first collection," replete with the unique 1870-S, is being retained by the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Research Foundation. Other rarities in the set include 1873, 1875, and 1876.
$5 Gold Half Eagles 1795-1929
Half eagles commence with multiple examples of the first year of issue, 1795, and continue to include many important and rare early issues, including such landmark dates as 1815 and 1829. The Bass Collection is very rich in interesting varieties within this range, all of which are scarce, and some of which are exceedingly rare. The condition or quality is among the finest known. Selected later issues representing the Classic Head, Liberty Head, and Indian Head design are included as well.
$10 Gold Eagles 1795-1933
Eagles of the early years commence with the first, 1795, and continue to include many interesting, important, and seldom-seen dates and die varieties through 1804, nearly all of which are of exceptional quality. Coinage was halted in 1804, as most coins were being exported, and continued production was viewed as being futile. It was not until 1838 that the $10 coins were again struck. Selected later issues representing the Liberty Head and Saint-Gaudens' Indian Head design are included in the Bass holdings.
$20 Double Eagles 1850-1933
Double eagles, first minted for circulation in 1850, include several variations on the two major design types, the 1850-1907 Liberty Head and the 1907-1933 Saint-Gaudens. A particular highlight is the MCMVII (1907 with the date in Roman numerals) in ultra high relief or sculptured format, one of fewer than two dozen known to exist -- an American classic. are presented in depth and breadth, emphasizing Proofs, but with many outstanding business strikes as well. In connection with the offering, a study of the distribution factors affecting the survival of these coins is given.
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