Fractional/California Gold Coins

Fractional/California Gold Coins

The origins of the fractional gold coins from California came about in 1848 with the discovery of gold in California. Once this discovery became known the rush was on to California to strike it rich. It is estimated that over 300,000 people traveled to California to begin their careers as gold miners. Some were successful and many were not. With this sudden influx of people there was a boom in demand for the necessities of life, such as, a place to eat, sleep, and have some fun. Early in the gold boom, a pinch of gold was used to purchase a beer at the local saloon; this method of payment didn’t work all that well. Until modern times, the US has been plagued with a chronic lack of coinage to take care of day to day transactions. The California of the 1840’s and 1850’s was no exception. Out of this shortage of small currency, the California Fractional gold coins were born. California Fractional gold or Cal Fractional gold coins were minted by private individuals, typically, a manufacture of jewelry and they were legal up until 1864. As time progressed from the early days of the 1850’s up until the early 1900’s the purpose and style of the coins changed. The study of these coins is broken down into three time periods. Period one is for coins struck between 1852 and 1856. These coins closely resemble the US gold dollars issued during this period. See figure 1 for an example of a Period one coin. These coins were primarily used as a money substitute. All of the California Fractional gold coins are rare when compared to modern coinage standards. The Breen-Gillio catalog lists a rarity scale with R1 being the most common, this is for coins with over 1250 known to exist. Compare this with the 1877 Indian Head Cent. The original mintage of this coin was 852,000, but, only 5,500 are estimated to have survived. So what this tells us is that the most common California Fractional Gold coin is rarer that the key date 1877 Indian Head Cent. There are over 450 varieties known of the fractional gold coins and they range in diameter from approximately 9 mm to 13 mm. These are all small coins. They can be round or octagonal, and typically weigh around one gram. The earlier Period one coins have a much higher gold content than the later Period three coins. Due to the rarity of any authentic California Fractional gold coins, the price start at around $200 for a circulated common example and go up from there. It is best to purchase the Cal Fractionals that have been professionally graded and encapsulated by one of the services, such as, ANACS, NGC, PCGS, or ICG. This ensures that your coin is authentic and is reasonably accurately graded. Having a professionally graded coin also makes the coin much easier to sell

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4 Items
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4 Items