By Doug WinterRareGoldCoins.com ……
 

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Douglas Winter Numismatics (DWN), a Portland, Oregon firm specializing in choice and rare United States gold coinage, recently sold the single-finest-known example of the 1855 Wass, Molitor & Company Small Head $20.00, graded MS62 by PCGS and approved by CAC. The coin was sold to a specialized collector in Southern California, and the reported price was in excess of $200,000 USD.

1855 WASS, MOLITOR & CO. $20.00, PCGS MS62, IMAGE COURTESY OF PCGS, DOUG WINTER

1855 WASS, MOLITOR & CO. $20.00, PCGS MS62. Images courtesy PCGS

Wass Molitor & Co.

Samuel Wass and Agoston Molitor were Hungarian immigrants who found their way to the California gold fields in 1851. In October of that year, they established an assaying office in San Francisco, and in November 1851 they made the decision to strike coins in denominations smaller than the $50 Slugs that were being issued by the United States Assay Office.

The first coins produced by the firm were dated 1852 and were in $5 and $10 denominations. The second wave of coins issued by Wass Molitor occurred in 1855 when they struck $20 pieces, and large-sized Round $50s.

1855 Wass Molitor $20s are found with two distinct varieties: the Small Head (Kagin-7: rare with an estimated 30-40 known in all grades), and the Large Head (Kagin-8: exceedingly rare with just three or four known). An example of the Large Head variety was stolen from Yale University in 1967 and its location is unknown.

The design of this issue has a somewhat odd appearance due to the fact that the obverse and reverse devices were originally intended to be used on a $10 coin: none were struck by the firm in 1855. As a result, the head of Liberty looks somewhat out of proportion in comparison to the large diameter of the $20 fields.

Condition Rarity

This 1855 Small Head $20 is not often found in grades higher than AU50. This is due to the poor strike on nearly all examples, as well as very rough handling in local commerce. No Wass Molitor $20s have been found on shipwrecks, making this an especially challenging issue for the condition-oriented specialist.

The coin sold by DWN is a reasonably new discovery that has never appeared at auction. It is by far the finest graded at PCGS; the next best are two graded AU55.

According to Doug Winter:

“[T]his coin is amazing for the issue. It has full mint luster, pristine surfaces and lovely natural green-gold and orange-gold color. It shows excellent detail for the issue and it is likely unique in Uncirculated.”

Douglas Winter Numismatics is located in Portland Oregon and it specializes in choice, rare United States gold coinage produced between 1795 and 1933. They can be reached by phone at (214) 675-9897 or via email at dwn@ont.com.

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About Doug Winter

Doug_Winter2Doug has spent much of his life in the field of numismatics; beginning collecting coins at the age of seven, and by the time he was 10 years old, buying and selling coins at conventions in the New York City area.

In 1989, he founded Douglas Winter Numismatics, and his firm specializes in buying and selling choice and rare US Gold coins, especially US gold coins and all branch mint material.

Recognized as one of the leading specialized numismatic firms, Doug is an award-winning author of over a dozen numismatic books and the recognized expert on US Gold. His knowledge and an exceptional eye for properly graded and original coins have made him one of the most respected figures in the numismatic community and a sought after dealer by collectors and investors looking for professional personalized service, a select inventory of impeccable quality and fair and honest pricing. Doug is also a major buyer of all US coins and is always looking to purchase collections both large and small. He can be reached at (214) 675-9897.

Doug has been a contributor to the Guidebook of United States Coins (also known as the “Redbook”) since 1983, Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Coins, Q. David Bowers’ Encyclopedia of United States Silver Dollars and Andrew Pollock’s United States Pattern and Related Issues

In addition, he has authored 13 books on US Gold coins including:
  • Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint: 1839-1909
  • Gold Coins of the Carson City Mint: 1870 – 1893
  • Gold Coins of the Charlotte Mint: 1838-1861
  • Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint 1838-1861
  • The United States $3 Gold Pieces 1854-1889
  • Carson City Gold Coinage 1870-1893: A Rarity and Condition Census Update
  • An Insider’s Guide to Collecting Type One Double Eagles
  • The Connoisseur’s Guide to United States Gold Coins
  • A Collector’s Guide To Indian Head Quarter Eagles
  • The Acadiana Collection of New Orleans Coinage
  • Type Three Double Eagles, 1877-1907: A Numismatic History and Analysis
  • Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861: A Numismatic History and Analysis
  • Type Two Double Eagles, 1866-1876: A Numismatic History and Analysis

Finally, Doug is a member of virtually every major numismatic organization, professional trade group and major coin association in the US.

 

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