By Ben Orooji, Numismatist & Cataloger – Stack’s Bowers New Colorado Gold Rush……
In 1857, gold was discovered in Colorado sparking a new gold rush in the West.
In Leavenworth, Kansas, brothers Austin and Milton Clark and merchant Emmanuel Gruber each started out provisioning Colorado-bound miners. Hearing tales from returning prospectors about the difficulties in conducting trade with gold dust, they realized that there was profit to be made providing banking and assay services in the gold fields. In early 1860 they formed Clark, Gruber & Company as a bank, assay office and mint.
While Milton Clark obtained dies and equipment in Philadelphia and New York, his partners headed to Denver to establish their office and mint. On July 5, they began striking coins in $2.50, $5, $10, and $20 denominations made from gold dust of high purity.
The Rocky Mountain News noted this on August 29:
Clark Gruber & Co. melted and coined about $18,000 in $10, $5, and $2.50 pieces. As specimens of coinage these pieces are far superior to any of the private mint drops issued in San Francisco, and are nearly as perfect as the regular United States Mint issues. The faces of the $5s and $2.50s are a good imitation of the government coinage — the stars, with the name of “Clark & Co.” occupying the head tiara. The reverse is occupied, of course, with ‘our noble bird’ encircled by the words ‘Pikes Peak Gold, Denver 2-1/2.’ Altogether it is a creditable piece of work, and we hope to see hosts of it in circulation before the snow flies. The fineness of this coin is 828-1/2 and the excess of weight over U.S. coin is 23 grains in a $10 piece. The value in gold is the same as government coin of like denomination, with an additional value in silver alloy equal to near 1%. Deduct the cost of coining at the U.S. mint, about 1/2 %, and the actual worth of Clark & Co.’s coin is 1/2% more than any other coinage.
The coins were quickly accepted by the miners and soon Clark, Gruber & Co. became the most prolific of the Colorado coiners.
The gold alloy initially used proved to be soft and prone to wear. In 1861, they added a higher concentration of silver to the alloy, all the while ensuring that the total gold content was roughly 1% higher than the federal equivalents.
All told, Clark, Gruber & Co. coined just under $600,000 face value by the time they ceased their minting operation in 1862. In April 1863, the partners sold their facility and equipment to the government who then used it as an assay office for the next 43 years, a full-fledged U.S. branch mint was built that opened in 1906. Clark, Gruber & Co. gold coins are generally scarce and are usually found in lower circulated grades, especially the softer alloy 1860-dated coins.
This classic Western territorial coin is remarkably well produced and preserved and is graded AU-58+ by PCGS. Striking detail is generally sharp, with much of the definition to Liberty’s portrait, the stars and the eagle’s plumage fully struck. The surfaces are smooth with a pleasing satiny texture and display a blend of medium gold and pale rose patina. A high-grade example such as this would be an important addition to a superior territorial gold cabinet. In fact, only three examples are graded finer (all MS-61) and a strong case could be made that this slightly circulated but less blemished piece is more visually appealing example than those graded technically finer.
This coin will be sold as part of our Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Summer Expo in Baltimore in June. Visit us at www.stacksbowers.com to see our other scheduled auctions. Also, download our mobile app to view and participate in our exciting auctions via your Android or Apple device. Call 1-800-566-2580 or email [email protected] for more information or to consign your collection to one of our future events!