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Moffat & Co. Gold Coins – 1849

Learn About Moffat and Company Gold Coins

It is generally accepted by the numismatic fraternity that while the coinage of Moffat & Company was not the earliest of the California gold private coinage, it certainly registers as the most important by far. They operated an assay office that conducted impeccable assays and when the United States decide to build and operate a mint in San Francisco the two surviving members of Moffat & Company were asked to start it and run it. For that reason, Moffat & Company coinage and ingots have acquired a semi-official status in the world of California private gold coinage. 

Sometime during the winter of 1848-1849, Moffat formed a company with 3 other respected gentlemen and, as many others did, headed to California to become part of the largest gold strike in United States history.  But unlike so many of the others there, they set about to set up a minting facility. And again, unlike so many others they received a public endorsement from R. J. Walker, then the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States that this firm had “gentlemen of the highest respectability.” That certainly set them apart from their peers.

Originally they struck gold ingots in face values from $9.43 as the smallest ingot to $264 as the largest ingot. The only denomination to come up for public auction is a $16.00 face value ingot where it fetched $235,000 in a Stacks’ Bowers sale in 2018. Several other ingots of different denominations reside in the Smithsonian collection.

(A Moffat & Co $16.00 Face Value Ingot – Auctioned in March 2018 for $235,000.)

The ingots were easier to make but they proved unwieldy as a medium of exchange. Later that same year George Kuner arrived in California from his homeland of Bavaria. He immediately joined Moffat & Company as the chief engraver and he was immediately tasked with designing and engraving Half Eagle and Eagle coins.

Kuner designed the coins to closely resemble the then-circulating United States Half Eagles and Eagle coins. The workmanship was excellent and the resemblance to US Coinage was unmistakable.

(An 1849 Moffat & Co Half Eagle. Liberty’s headband says “ MOFFAT & CO.” and the legend on the reverse differs from “S.M.V. CALIFORNIA GOLD” – Obverse [left], Reverse {right].)

The issuance and acceptance of the 1849 Moffat & Company Half Eagles guaranteed the striking and future acceptance of his 1850 Five Dollar Half Eagles, which only differed from the 1849 version in the dates.

(An 1850 Moffat & Co Half Eagle. Obverse [left], Reverse {right].)

The other two coins in the series that were issued were two 1849 dated $10.00 Eagle Gold coins. The coins mimicked these Half Eagle specimens except in size and in the denomination. One example says “TEN D.” as the denomination and the other says “TEN DOL.”

(An 1849 Moffat & Co Eagle. “TEN D.” Denomination. Obverse [left], Reverse {right].)
(An 1849 Moffat & Co Eagle. “TEN DOL.” Denomination. Obverse [left], Reverse {right].)

Moffatt & Company California private gold coins are some of the most recognizable, desirable and affordable of all the privacy issues.

DateTypeMintageVF ValueUnc Value
(ND)$16.00 Moffat IngotRare$245,000
1849$5.00 Half EagleScarce$3,500$16,500
1850$5.00 Half EagleScarce$3,750$19,000
1849$10.00 Eagle “TEN D.”Scarce$7,500$40,000
1849$10.00 Eagle “TEN DOL.”Scarce$8,500    $48,500

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