New California fractional gold variety discovered

Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) and Stack’s Bowers Galleries recently announced they identified a new variety of California fractional gold: the 1854 Octagonal California gold dollar, which was recently submitted for attribution and grading.

California fractional gold pieces were struck by private mints in the state to fill a commercial need for smaller denominations. The coins were issued from 1852 in 25-cent, 50-cent and $1 denominations. All of the gold pieces are attributed by NGC at no additional charge according to “BG” numbers (from the surnames of Walter Breen and Ronald Gillio, authors of the reference book for the series, California Pioneer Fractional Gold).

NGC graders tried attributing the 1854 Octagonal California Gold Dollar according to the BG catalogue numbers but determined it did not match any of the known varieties listed in the reference book. The coin was struck from the same reverse die as BG-529, identified by the two stars between “GOLD” and “DERI”, but the obverse is described as “quite different.”

“There were notable dissimilarities in the placement of both the head and stars,” according to NGC, which brought the coin to the World’s Fair of Money show in Anaheim, Calif., to show it to Gillio, who currently serves as executive director of consignments as well as numismatics acquisitions co-ordinator for Stack’s.

Gillio, along with John Pack, fellow Stack’s executive director of consignments, and numismatic researcher Robert Leonard, Jr., confirmed this piece is a new variety, which they listed as BG-529a.

New California fractional gold varieties are seldom identified, with a new discovery made only once every four or five years. This significant find is now graded NGC About Uncirculated-55 and encapsulated with a label bearing its BG-529a attribution.

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