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Obverse of 1848 "CAL" Quarter Eagle     Reverse of 1848 "CAL" Quarter Eagle


1848 "CAL." $2-1/2 DOLLARS
OR QUARTER EAGLE

PCGS No: 7749

Mintage:

Circulation strikes: 1,389
Proofs: 0

Designer: Christian Gobrecht

Diameter: 18 millimeters

Metal content:
Gold - 90%
Other - 10%

Weight:  64.5 grains (4.18 grams)

Edge: Reeded

Mintmark: "CAL." punched into the coin above the eagle on the reverse; all were struck at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Images courtesy of Ron Guth

Notes:
On January 24, 1848, James Wilson Marshall noticed some small flakes of yellow metal near the Sutter's Mill project outside Coloma, California.  Marshall's discovery turned out to be gold, touching off one of the largest voluntary migration of humans the world has ever known -- the California Gold Rush.

In December 1848, the Military Governor of California, Col. R.B. Mason, sent 228 ounces of newly mined gold to the Secretary of War, William L. Marcy.  Marcy forwarded the gold to the Philadelphia Mint, with instructions to use the gold for Congressional Medals for Generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott.  Any leftover gold was to be turned into specially marked Quarter Eagles.  1,389 1848-dated Quarter Eagles were struck from the California gold shipment, each one stamped with a small "CAL." in the upper reverse field.  The stamping appears to have been done while the coins were still in the press, as none of the obverse features appear to have been flattened.  At least one example (the James F. Lindsay - 1978 GENA, Lot 1839 example) shows triple punching.  

Closeup of 1848 "CAL." Quarter Eagle Reverse

Beware of forgeries with fake "CAL." punched into regular 1848 Quarter Eagles.  This normally results in some flattening of the obverse features opposite the punch.  We're not aware of any metallurgical testing having been performed on the various 1848 Quarter Eagles, but we suspect that the California ore of the "CAL."s will contain trace elements in different amounts than in the "Eastern" ore of the regular 1848 Quarter Eagles.  Only a single "CAL." punch was used, so any pretender must match the exact positioning and spacing of the lettering and period of the punch on a known genuine piece (see enlarged image above).  Placement of the punch relative to other elements on the reverse varies, so this cannot be used as an indicator of authenticity.

Some 1848 "CAL." Quarter Eagles have been called "Proof" in the past (Delp, Miles, Pierce, and Kern), but none were struck from the same dies as true 1848 Proofs.

The finest example graded by PCGS is a single MS-68.

Significant examples:
PCGS MS-68.  Ex - Bowers and Merena Galleries "The Rarities Sale", July 31, 2002, Lot 716, illustrated, not sold

PCGS MS-66 (illustrated above).  Ex - Clapp - Eliasberg, Lot 145, sold for $41,800.00 - Auction '85, Lot 923, sold for $46,200.00 - Hanks & Associates - Great Lakes collection - Mike Storeim

Recent appearances:
PCGS AU-53.  Ex - Bowers and Merena Galleries' Robert W. Schwan Collection Sale, October 26-27, 2000, Lot 2150 at $24,150.00

EF-40 Cleaned.  Ex- Heritage Numismatic Auctions, Inc.'s "October 2000 Long Beach Sale" October 5-7, 2000, Lot 7062, illustrated, not sold

PCGS VF-35.  Ex - Stack's sale of June 1989, Lot 146 - Jay Roe - Bowers and Merena Galleries "The Rarities Sale", July 31, 2002, Lot 717, illustrated, sold for $13,800.00

Sources and/or recommended reading:
"Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins" by Walter Breen

"The PCGS Population Report, April 2003" by The Professional Coin Grading Service

"United States Gold Coins - An Analysis of Auction Records, Volume II, Quarter Eagles 1796-1929" by David W. Akers