NORRIS, GREGG & NORRIS
PCGS Nos: 10279, 10282
I. 1849 $5
A. No Period After ALLOY
1. Plain Edge
2. Reeded Edge
B. Period After ALLOY
1. Plain Edge
2. Reeded Edge
II. 1850 $5
No Patterns or Die Trials
are known for the Norris, Gregg & Norris coins
History of the Norris,
Gregg & Norris Gold Coins:
The first company answering the
plea for a coinage in California is generally believed to have been
Norris, Gregg, & Norris. Historian Edgar H. Adams claims they were
first on the grounds that they were the first coiners to be cited in the
California newspapers. The firm is also the first company mentioned in
Eckfeldt and Dubois’ book, New Varieties of Gold and Silver Coins
(1850). Some private gold coiners, however, never were cited in California
papers. Any one of them could have issued products prior to those from
Norris, Gregg, & Norris. There is a possibility that Bowie &
Company and Meyers & Company might have preceded Norris, Gregg &
On May 31, 1849, in the
first known reference to private coinage to appear in any of the
California papers, the editors of the Alta California observed:
"We have in our
possession a Five Dollar gold coin, struck at Benicia City, although the
imprint is San Francisco. In general appearance it resembles the United
States coin of the same value, but it bears the private stamp of
"Norris, Grieg & Norris", and is in other particulars widely
One of the interesting
features of this article is the spelling of the middle partner’s name.
For many years there has been some question as to its proper spelling. The
article spelled it "Grieg," but the United States Assayer in
California, Augustus Humbert, spelled it "Grigg." Historian
Edgar Adams relates that among Humbert’s effects, which were sold in
1902, was found one of these coins wrapped in a sheet of paper with the
note "From my friends, Norris, Grigg & Norris." To further
complicate the situation, the names of all three partners are found in the
Directory of New York City of 1849 as Thomas H. Norris, Hiram A.
Norris, and Charles Gregg. Adams mentions a book published in New York in
1849 carrying an advertisement for the firm of "Norris, Gregg &
Norris." The ad explained that the firm, located at 62 Gold Street
between Beekman and Fulton Streets, New York, manufactured and dealt
"in Wrought Iron Pipes, and Fittings of all kinds."
It is fairly certain that
the firm in New York is the same as the one in California. H.A. Norris is
mentioned as a passenger on a vessel leaving New York in 1849, bound for
California. While both the New York directory and the advertisement
spelled Gregg’s name differently from Humbert or the newspaper article,
one must question the latter two sources’ accuracy. Due to the nature of
the newspaper reporting and publication, their accuracy sometimes is a
problem. This was especially true of papers published in the nineteenth
century. Humbert’s spelling, like anyone’s, easily could have been in
error. While directories were not always perfect in their spelling ,they
were generally correct since the subscribers were paying for their
listing. The spelling of a sponsor’s name in his paid advertisement
probably is the most reliable source in this regard since paid advertising
copy is usually checked by the subscriber before it is run.
Another question is posed by
the newspaper article previously cited, which states that the coins of
Norris, Gregg & Norris "resemble the United States coin."
The design of extant Norris pieces is radically different from the federal
coinage. This may suggest that an undiscovered type, with usual Liberty
head and eagle design similar to that on U.S. coins of that period,
preceded the varieties known today.
It has never been determined
where in Benicia the first Norris, Gregg & Norris coins were minted.
The late San Francisco historian, Roy Hill, published an article by L.P.
Marshall, written for the February 1912 issue of Out West. In it
the author states that while he was roaming the region around Benicia with
his sons in 1852-1853, he was told of an old house which he proceeded to
occupy. Marshall continues, "In and about the house we found
appliances for the manufacture of counterfeit coins, such as crucibles,
dies, copper, etc. It is supposed that a band of counterfeiters had found
the place deserted and had taken possession of it." If Marshall is
correct in his assumption, however, then why would the coiners abandon
their equipment, without any apparent justification?
It is possible that this
house was indeed occupied by counterfeiters, although according to
Eckfeldt and DuBois, no counterfeits were ever found (i.e. known to them
in the 1850’s) from among the California gold coins. The home could also
have been a proposed site of the Mormons, who at one time planned to
settle there. This, however, is highly unlikely because no mention is made
in the Mormon journals of a proposed mint in California. It is possible
that Marshall may have used the word "counterfeiter" for anyone
other than the government who made coins. Until positive evidence to the
contrary is forthcoming, the house Marshall discovered may be assumed to
be the site of the Norris, Gregg & Norris mint.
It is now believed that
Norris, Gregg & Norris moved to Stockton from Benicia sometime in
1850. One source states that A. Reimers of San Francisco, a close friend
of Mr. Kuner, told some coin collectors that Kuner insisted that Norris,
Gregg & Norris were businessmen in Stockton. Significantly, in 1947 a
specimen was found with the word STOCKTON on the die and dated 1850. This
piece might very well have been made after Norris, Gregg & Norris
moved from Benicia to Stockton. An article in the Stockton Times of
April 6, 1850, mentions the presence of a coining operation of Norris,
Gregg & Norris in Stockton.
The coins seem to have been
well received by the general populace. An article by E. Sprague in the
April 20, 1850, Stockton Times explained the necessity and
desirability of the Norris coin. He further stated that the people and
merchants were desirous of the issues and and that only gold dust brokers
who wished to retain the depressed gold market and continue to reap high
profits from reselling th gold at much higher market value were against
the new coins which would raise the gold’s value to its proper level.
These brokers raised the question of the value of Norris pieces.
Norris effectively replied
to this charge in an article published in the Stockton Times by
stating, "1st--All the gold coin stamped by me is, as it purports on
its face to be, of pure placer gold without any admixture or other
substances. 2nd--These coins, on average, weigh 1 percent heavier than the
U.S. Half Eagles. 3rd--The coins sell in Boston, New York, Philadelphia,
and New Orleans at a premium of 1 percent." The first two points
later were substantiated by Eckfeldt and DuBois.
It is not known when Norris,
Gregg & Norris ceased their operations, nor what the proprietors did
afterwards. Since the Stockton specimen is unique, it is likely that not
too many were issued, and coining ceased soon after the April 20 article.
This company’s coins are not mentioned in later newspaper references to
private coins, so that as early as 1851 they were no longer found in
circulation in either the San Francisco or Sacramento areas.
--Reprinted with permission
of the author from Donald H. Kagin's, "Private Gold Coins and
Patterns of the United States", copyright 1981, Arco Publishing, Inc.
of New York, pp 62-64.
Images courtesy of Images
courtesy of Ira
& Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, Inc.
NGC MS-63 (illustrated above). Ex - Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins
and Collectibles, Inc.'s "The George Mouhtouris Collection",
October 1-2, 2001, Lot 1992, illustrated, PCGS MS-62 - Ira & Larry
Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, Inc. "The Benson Collection, Part
III", February 24-25, 2003, Lot 2213, illustrated, now NGC MS-63,
repurchased by the consignor for $43,700.00
See individual types
The 1849 Norris, Gregg & Norris (NG&N) $5 Gold pieces are scarce,
but not rare. They are most often seen in circulated grades, with a
fairly even distribution amongst the grades, even up to About
Uncirculated. In Mint State, the 1849 NG&N $5 Gold pieces become
The Plain and Reeded Edge
variants are seen in nearly identical quantities.
The finest 1849 Plain Edge
$5 graded by PCGS is a single MS-63.
The finest 1849 Reeded Edge
$5 graded by PCGS are 3 MS-62's.
The 1850 $5 is unique and
has not been assigned a grade by PCGS.
"Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia Of U.S. And Colonial
Coins" by Walter Breen
"Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States" by Donald
"The PCGS Population Report,
January 2003" by The
Professional Coin Grading Service