An article by Frank VanValen published on the Stack's Bowers blog March 4, 2016 answers a longstanding question about the origin of
some of the "California Gold" souvenir pieces. -Editor
Over the decades in my professional capacity as a catalog writer I have had the opportunity to catalog some of the finest collections
ever assembled of California Small Denomination or Fractional gold coins, including the Texas Collection and the Jay Roe Collection.
Whenever a collection of California Fractional gold coins appears for auction there is included, more often than not, a group of California
“charms” that closely resemble California Fractional pieces, but there the similarities stop. These charms are dated typically in the Gold
Rush era though they were produced late in the 19th and early to mid-20th centuries. Most importantly, however, was the fact that they had
no denomination such as CENTS or DOLLAR as found on the genuine pieces. I often wondered how these little charms, far more numerous than
the genuine California pieces, made it into so many collections. How were they distributed? Were they for sale by jewelers who produced
them to demonstrate engraving skills? Did they sell at coin shows? How much did they cost when new? Were they available to firms for
A recent find on an Internet bidding site partly answered some of my long-time queries. My latest exonumia purchase is a small 3.5 inch
X 2.25 inch manila envelope with a depiction of a pirate on a tropical shore opening a treasure chest. THE / PIRATES TREASURE / PRIZE SET
appears in boldface letters above the beach scene on three lines. To the right of the pirate the envelope reads CONTAINS / $1/4 & $½
SIZE / SOUVENIR / CALIFORNIA GOLD / COINS / RETAILS FOR 77C on six lines. The contents, all Mint State, include an “1856” Liberty Head
Round 25C, an “1852” Liberty Head Round 50C, an “1852” Indian Head Octagonal 25C, and an 1856 Indian head Octagonal 50C. All are nicely
toned and fully brilliant, the toning no doubt from the glassine envelope inside the manila holder. Who made these particular charms is
unknown to me, but the packaging must have caught the eye of many youngsters back when offered. It sure caught my adult eye and I couldn’t
wait to add this Pirates Treasure of California Gold charms to my collection. I wonder how many kids paid 77C for the honor of owning one
of these pirate packages. Here in 2016, I had to pay $10, postage included, and I would pay that amount over and over again for more pirate
treasure California Fractional charms.
To read the complete article, see:
Of Pirates’ Treasures and California Gold Charms (www.stacksbowers.com/NewsMedia/Blogs/TabId/780/ArtMID
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