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Unique Wass Molitor $20 Gold Featured in August GreatCollections Auction

The California territorial is one of the great rarities of the pioneer series


GreatCollections has been selected to auction the unique 1855 Wass Molitor Twenty Dollar gold coin, Kagin K-8a, graded AU-50 by PCGS and approved by CAC. One of only four known examples of this extremely rare Large Head Wass Molitor Twenty, it is also a unique die pairing. It is being offered unreserved with a closing date of Sunday, August 15.

It is the only example approved by CAC. Listed in A Guide Book of U.S. Coins (the Red Book) as a unique variety. When this coin last sold in 2014 it was discovered that unlike the other three examples known, it used the reverse die of the Small Head Wass Molitor Twenty. The other three used a slightly different reverse die.

This specimen is essentially the only collectible Large Head Wass Molitor double eagle available to collectors. Of the other three known specimens, one is in the Smithsonian Institution, one was stolen in the Willis H. DuPont robbery of 1967 and its location is unknown at this time, and the third was also stolen in 1967 from the Yale University collection but is believed to have been recovered.

Unique Wass Molitor $20 Gold Featured in August GreatCollections Auction

An 1855 $20 Large Head Twenty Dollar has appeared at public auction only seven times since 1896, including this appearance. Of those seven appearances, six are of this coin. The lone auction appearance of a different Wass Molitor Large Head Twenty occurred in 1929 in the Thomas Elder sale of the Lawrence collection, lot 1406, where it realized the sum of $7,000. To put that into perspective, the Lawrence sale also included the following lots: an 1855 Kellogg $50 in choice Proof at $2,150 (14 known), and an attractive AU $20 1860 Clark Gruber Mountain Twenty at $900 (10-12 known).

Until the 1929 Lawrence sale of the 1855 Large Head Wass Molitor Twenty Dollar, the previous record price for any coin, was the sale of the Stickney example of the Brasher Doubloon in June 1907 by Henry Chapman for $6,200. This auction record stood for 22 years until it was bested by the Wass Molitor Large Head Twenty Dollar at $7,000 in 1929! The same Brasher Doubloon sold recently for $9.36 million at the Partrick auction by Heritage in January 2021.

The Wass Molitor Large Head Twenty Dollar has been missing from nearly every major collection of pioneer gold including Zabriskie, Garrett, Nygren, Eliasberg, Kaufman, and Beck. This example is Ex: Carter 1984.

Ex: Hayes (1896), Virgil Brand, Roach (1944), Geiss (1947), Amon Carter (1984), Riverboat (2014), Colorado Native (2014 to present).

Background of the 1855 Wass Molitor $20 Gold

Wass, Molitor and Company were one of several private mints that were active in San Francisco during the California gold rush period of 1849-1855. Due to a severe shortage of coins during the opening years of the California gold rush, and before the establishment of the U.S. branch mint in San Francisco, these mints met the needs of local commerce. Wass, Molitor and Company were one of the more well-known minters of the era, along with the firms of Augustus Humbert & Company, Baldwin & Company, Kellogg & Company, Moffatt and Company and the United States Assay Office of Gold.

Wass, Molitor and Company was founded in October of 1851 by two Hungarian immigrants, Count Samuel C. Wass and Agoston P. Molitor. By early 1852 they were coining both Eagle and Half Eagle-sized coins dated 1852. No coins were produced in 1853 and 1854. In 1855 their firm was again called into the service of coinage when a severe shortage of parting acids caused the official United States branch mint to shut down. They minted Ten Dollar, Twenty Dollar, and Fifty Dollar coins, all dated 1855, to help meet the needs of local merchants.

During research conducted by numismatic researchers Wayne Burt, Saul Teichman, Stuart Levine, and David Stone in 2014 it was discovered that there are four distinct examples of the Large Head Wass Molitor Twenty Dollar that are known to numismatists. It was revealed that this coin differs from the other three specimens known by the reverse die used. This specimen utilizes the reverse die used to strike the Small Head variety of Twenty Dollar coins. The other three specimens known used a slightly different reverse die. At the time this information was discovered, Ken Bressett, editor of A Guide Book of U.S. Coins, stated that it was a candidate for inclusion in the next edition of the Red Book. It is now listed in the Guide Book as a unique die variety.

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GreatCollections will be attending the ANA’s World’s Fair of Money from Monday, August 9 through Friday, August 13 at tables 400, 402, and 404. For more information about the Wass Molitor $20 Gold, contact Ian Russell at 1-800-442-6467.

About GreatCollections

GreatCollections is an auction house for certified coins and paper money, as well as coins approved by CAC, handling coin/banknote transactions from start to finish. For sellers, GreatCollections offers professional imaging for each coin/note, cash advances as appropriate, extensive marketing, and other individualized services generally not available with other auction houses and websites, freeing the seller to do nothing except collect the proceeds of the sale. Buyers benefit by entrusting a venue whose principals have years of numismatic experience and whose reputations in the industry are impeccable. Ian Russell, Owner/President of GreatCollections, is a member of the prestigious PNG (#785) and Life Member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA), while the company is an authorized submitter to PCGS, CAC, and member of the National Auctioneers Association. Calif. Auctioneer Bond #106582267.

GreatCollections, the official auction house of the American Numismatic Association (ANA), specializes in auctioning certified coins and banknotes, handling transactions from start to finish. Since its founding in 2010, GreatCollections has successfully auctioned over one million certified coins, making it one of the leading certified coin companies in the United States, with annual sales in 2021 exceeding $235 million. Ian Russell, owner/president of GreatCollections, is a member of the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) and a member of the National Auctioneers Association.

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