1855 Wass Mol Eagle - 1855 Wass Molitor $10 NGC AU58, K-6, High R5. This extremely rare, near-Mint State 1855 Wass, Molitor & Co. eagle has significant mint luster within the coin’s devices on both sides. Despite the presence of a bag mark above star 4, the surfaces are clean and original. The strike is sharp on the lower right part of the obverse and the upper left of the reverse. The stars above Liberty are weak as is the denomination, TEN D. A circular plug was used on the obverse die to repair the second 5 of the date.
Wass and Molitor were Hungarian freedom fighters and immigrants who opened an assay office in San Francisco in 1851. Count Samuel C. Wass and Agoston (Augustus) P. Molitor studied at the School of Mines in Germany. They were experienced miners when they were exiled by the Austrians at the end of the unsuccessful revolution. Wass came to California in 1850, and Molitor came a year later. They opened up their assay office in October, 1851. At first they made and stamped gold ingots. In the process, they established their reputation for honest, fast, and reliable service. They paid depositors in forty-eight hours, which was six days faster than the U.S. Assay Office was able to do.
Since the U.S. Assay Office was only producing fifty dollar slugs, Wass and Molitor made five and ten-dollar gold coins in 1852. The obverse of these coins shows a Liberty Head Coronet surrounded by thirteen stars. On the coronet is inscribed W.M. & CO., with the date below. Dentils are around the periphery of both sides of the coins. The reverse of the five dollar coin shows a heraldic eagle facing left surrounded with the legend FIVE DOLLARS IN CALIFORNIA GOLD. The ten dollar reverse has the same eagle surrounded by the legend S.M.V. CALIFORNIA GOLD TEN D. S.M.V. means Standard Mint Value. The coins were of a weight and fineness that was the same as the federal standard.
When the San Francisco assay office and later the Mint began making their own coinage, Wass and Molitor stopped their assay business in 1854; however, when the new San Francisco Mint could not make enough coins to satisfy the need, Wass and Molitor resumed. In 1855, they minted ten, twenty, and fifty dollar gold pieces.
The fifty dollar coin was described in the Sacramento Daily Union of April 30, 1855 as follows: "Col. Pardee of Wells, Fargo & Co.'s Express has exhibited to us the new fifty dollar piece, which in a great measure is destined to supplant the old fashioned octagon slug now in circulation. This coin is circular, almost entirely destitute of ornament, and plain as a maiden's countenance who has breathed the air of fifty summers. At the outer edge of one side are the words 'Wass, Molitor & Co. San Francisco,' enclosing on the centre of the coin the figures '900' and abbreviated word 'Thous.' with the figures '50' underneath and the word 'Dollars' below the latter figures. On the reverse of the coin is a homely head of Liberty and the figures '1855.' The coin certainly has no pretensions to beauty; nevertheless we would not like to refuse a few to break with our friends."
The 1855 Wass and Molitor coins were made at a time when the federal assay office could not obtain the necessary parting acids to refine gold dust and oar with the required copper on a consistent basis. The daily need for coinage was supplied by two firms Kellogg & Co., and Wass and Molitor. Although the San Francisco Mint rated the coins from Wass, Molitor at full face value, most were nevertheless melted and converted into federal gold.
All Wass, Molitor & Co. gold is rare in all conditions. The K-6 1855 eagle has a high R5 rating meaning that 31 to 75 pieces are known. In its population report, NGC shows 3 in AU58 condition with 3 better. At PCGS there are 2 in AU58 with none better. These numbers do not account for resubmissions and crossovers.
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