I am a collector and dealer in small gold coins and tokens of all kinds.
CALIFORNIA GOLD is of special interest, but coins and tokens weighing less than 1 gram of any kind are of interest

I have made information about these pieces available because of the large amount of mis-information that exists. Also, I want to encourage you to contact me with descriptions of the items that you own. Of course, these lists are also useful for understanding my for sale list. Please peruse the links provided at the left. Some of links are aging a bit, but the information is still valuable.

My denominated California Gold guide is an update to the period 1 section of the 1st edition of "California Pioneer Fractional Gold" by Breen and Gillio. The 2nd edition of the book is more up to date.

The story of California Fractional Gold Coins and Tokens

After the discovery of large deposits of gold in California in 1848 there was a huge influx of people to California. Many of these new arrivals brought little money with them. Combined with the geographically isolated location of California, this produced a lot of people with gold but no money. Several private firms produced gold coins denominated as $5, $10, $20, and $50, mostly in the 1849 to 1853 time frame. This activity filled the need for money for large transactions, but left no means to make change for more ordinary purchases. Although a number of solutions to the small change problem were tried, the subject of study here are the gold $0.25, $0.50 and $1 pieces made by private mints beginning in 1852.

Although these small coins never acheived large scale circulation, by late 1853 they had gained popularity as souvenirs that could be economically mailed home. The gold content of these small coins started out rather low and once they became popular as souvenirs the weights dropped even farther. Congress passed 2 coinage acts in 1864 that effectively banned privately produced coins, but the law was not fully enforced until 1883. During the period of partial enforcement of the coinage act of 1864, one mint tried using gold rush era dates in order to avoid attracting attention. Although production was more-or-less stopped in 1883, it resumed in 1884 with pieces that lacked a dollar value claim on the design. These later pieces are called tokens by the collecting community. The backdating practice of 1864-1883 was adopted by most mints in the post 1883 time frame.

Some major producers of these pieces are:

Antoine Nouizillet-M. Deriberpe-Isadore Routhier 1853-1856 Succeeded by Robert Gray 1859-1870
Succeeded by Levison Bros. 1870-1871
Succeeded by Herman J. Brand 1873-circa 1903
Succeeded by Herman Kroll circa 1903 - circa 1920s
Succeeded by UNKNOWN circa 1920s - 1987 (dies sold at auction)

Joseph Bros. 1852-1853
Succeeded by Pierre Frontier and Eugene Deviercy 1853-1873

Christoph Mohrig 1872-1884

Franklin Herbert Noble Jr. (FH Noble and Co) 1880-1905

Standley 1909 (AYPE tokens)

Jacoby Bros (Canada) 1912-circa 1980

American Pacific Stamping (for Nathan Joseph, Kelly's Coins, Sidney Smith, Tatham Stamp and Coin) circa 1920 - circa 1980.

Osborne Coinage (for Daniel Hurkett) 1966

Some major distributors of these pieces include

Nathan Joseph (the youngest Joseph Brother) circa 1880- circa 1924
Tatham Stamp and Coin (used some Joseph dies) circa 1930 - circa 1970
Sidney Smith (used some Joseph dies) circa 1958 - circa 1978
Kelly's Coins (copies of early Joseph dies) 1961

M.E. Hart Company (the popular Coins of the Golden West set) circa 1915-1916

To email me:
Mike Locke (lockem@calgoldcoin.com)