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AU Capital Management Acquires Unparalleled Collection of California Fractional Gold Coins


AU Capital Management has announced that it has acquired and is offering for sale on its website an unparalleled collection of more than 300 California Fractional Gold coins.bg220obv

This collection was recently assembled by a Gentleman Collector who is best known to insiders as internet “Bidder 3013” during public auction of the Jack Totheroh and the Bergen/Istvan Collection conducted by the firm Holabird/Kagin Americana of Reno, Nevada on the April 12, 2013. Most noteworthy is this Gentleman successfully out-bid practically every one of the fifty or more collectors in attendance during that auction and subsequently continued to accumulate as many of these scarce and unusual artifacts of Pioneer gold rush lore as anyone ever has.

Nearly one-third of the collection are classified Rarity-7, with 10 specimens classified as Rarity-8, or unique.

The average price for these 160-year old artifacts is just $3,000, but nearly half of the coins are available for $1,000, or even less.

The Concept and Creation of California Fractional Gold

News of the discovery of gold in northern California traveled fast and soon there were pioneers setting foot on the shores of San Francisco from all parts of the world. And with them came all different kinds of money. In addition, gold dust and nuggets were being brought into the city for Assay and most of the gold ended up in denominations of $10, $20 and $50 gold pieces, and even ingots weighing as much as 300 ounces, evidence we have from recovered treasure on board shipwrecks.


The problem of a standard form of daily monetary exchange suddenly grew quite acute. More people = more commerce. Foreign coinage could not be reliably redeemed and the large denominations of Assayed gold could not be changed into smaller denominations. Overworked miners were getting weary of the “fat-fingered” bartender taking large “pinches” of gold dust just to pay bar tabs.

So starting in 1852, a few select jewelers, bankers, and entrepreneurs began minting small denomination gold coins in response to this lack of circulating currency. Many were minted with the initials of those who struck them, including:cal_tower

  • Deriberpie & Nouizillet “DN” (coins from 1852-1853)
  • Antoine Louis Nouizillet “N” (coins from 1852-1856),
  • Gaime, Guillemot & Co. “GG” (coins of 1853),
  • M. Deriberpie “DERI(B)” (coins from 1853-1854),
  • Frontier, Deviercy & Co. “FD” (coins from 1853-1860),
  • George Ladd “GL” (coins of 1854, 1857),
  • Nouizillet & Routhier “NR” (coins of 1855),
  • Robert B. Gray “G” (coins from 1856-1871)
  • California Jewelry Co “L” (coins from 1871),
  • Hershfield & Mitchell “H” (coins of 1871)

Together they created 25 cent, 50 cent, and one dollar gold denominations with the easily recognizable Liberty Head on the obverse, and struck in octagonal and round formats.

The use of the Indian Head design on the obverse did not commence until 1868, several years after the introduction and circulation of the similarly designed U.S. Indian Head cent.

These newly circulating coins must have made commerce much more convenient.

Collecting California Fractional Gold

California Fractional gold coins are divided into three categories, or “Periods.” These include:


Period 1 – Gold Rush small change, 1852-1856. 141 different varieties. These issues circulated as money.


Period 2 – Suppressed Jeweler’s Issues, 1859-1882. 426 different varieties.

Period 3 – Herman Kroll Issues, 1883-(?)

There are many fascinating issues and ways to collect California Fractional Gold and, best of all, many of these historic and unique issues are quite affordable, especially compared to other gold series, including the larger denomination Pioneer Gold issues struck during the early to mid-1850s.

bg501Twelve coins make up a “Type Set” of California Fractional Gold. This consists of three denominations (25¢, 50¢ and $1) with Liberty and Indian Head motifs in octagonal and round formats.

There are 567 varieties of California Fractional Gold in all, not including the Kroll issues from Period Three.

There are numerous cool and uncommon coins in the series. In addition to those coins featuring the maker’s initials, some have really great designs.

For instance, the Humbert “defiant” Eagle motif on the $50 gold “slugs” of the era also appear on the reverse of a few California Fractional gold dollars (BG-501-504)

A smaller eagle more closely representing a “peacock” can be found on gold half dollars (BG-301-303; BG-410-413) . Then there is the ever-popular “Arms of California” gold half dollar (BG-435) , and the 1872-dated Washington Head issues (substituted for Liberty on BG-818, 722-724).


Several books have been published on this series. The most recent and widely regarded reference is the Walter Breen and Ron Gillio California Pioneer Fractional Gold.

Some older references include California Fractional Gold by David and Susan Doering and Kenneth W. Lee’s California Gold: Dollars, Half Dollars, and Quarter Dollars.California Pioneer Fractional Gold.

The Present Collection

The collection we now offer includes over 300 coins, with just a few duplicates but distinguished by different die varieties. More than 100 of the coins are pedigreed to Jack Totheroh or Jay Roe (who used the Rarity Scale R1 though R8 for each known issue based upon the frequency of which these coins appeared for sale in order to determine the survival rates on the number of specimens known) —and some are pedigreed to both.

Jack Totheroh tirelessly shared his enthusiasm over the California Fractional Gold series with anyone who demonstrated even the slightest interest. His passion for the series was most likely fueled by his lineage, as the original family moved from England to California in 1852. Totheroh began collecting California Fractional Gold in 1970 and, despite a devastating theft of his coin collection in 1993 (partially recovered with the help of the Goldbergs of Los Angeles), he accumulated a nearly complete collection of Period One California Fractional Gold issues not once, but twice!

This is a remarkable opportunity for a broad range of investors and collectors alike to own something of historic significance that few could ever own. We now have the privilege of releasing this collection for sale into a well-attended marketplace of collectors.

Russell A. Augustin
Russell A. Augustinhttps://www.aucm.com
Russell Augustin entered the numismatic profession in 1982. He specializes in U.S. gold, Pioneer and Fractional gold coinage, Early Type and Early Dollars and ancient Roman and Greek coinage. Russell attended both Ohio Wesleyan and Harvard Universities. Thereafter, he served as Vice President and Director of Numismatics at two national coin companies. He founded NumisTech Consulting, and has been an appraiser for the federal government, price consultant for a rare coin fund, and advisor to a major New England advertising agency. In 2005, Russ established AU Capital Management (AUCM), LLC, where he is currently owner and president. In 2016, AUCM became an affiliate of the numismatic powerhouse, RARCOA, and relocated its fulfillment center to Illinois.

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  1. While the building of this fractional gold collection is remarkable over only the past two years, it would have been far better not to include this information of massive “outbidding everyone” over only the past two years in building this collection. Recent auction history shows clearly that numismatic purchases over the past, 5 to 8 years, has in most cases resulted in significant losses to those collectors when the pieces have resold . Who is going to pay the present asking price for an item purchased at a prominent auction in the past two years, most particularly an auction held by a prominent firm synonymous with pioneer gold and who knew all the major collectors? It would have been wise to just let the collection stand by itself altho doubtless many potential buyers would recognize the recent source of many pieces.

  2. All good points but take the time to read the written descriptions of those coins being sold on our website. In nearly all instances the Totheroh coins can be acquired at 70 to 80 cents on the dollar paid back in 2013.

  3. I have an 1852 Indian head fractional 1/4 octagon coin. No initials. How can I determine if it is real and the value. also have 1853 1/4 circle, 1854 1/2 circle Indian and 1855 1/4 octagon. Trying to evaluate.


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