Half Union: The Forgotten 50 Dollar U.S. Gold Coin

The Half Union was a proposed gold coin appellation with a confront value of fifty dollars. It was never officially adopted for U.S. currency, but the marriage proposal did result in the production of two patterns ( i.e. trial pieces ) in 1877. These remain the largest gold coins ever struck by the United States government .half union smithsonian The gold Half Union radiation pattern is formally known as J-1548 in reference books. image : Smithsonian initiation This report contains two fascinating subplots : one about money and economics in the late nineteenth hundred, and another about small-scale graft among politics officials. You can besides find our podcast sequence about this subject by following the connection.

Why the Half Union Was Proposed

Summary: Due to the widespread use of gold for department of commerce in America ‘s western territories during the in-between of the nineteenth century, a larger size of gold mint was considered. The California Gold Rush of 1849 profoundly transformed the United States. It greatly increased the measure of amber in the area. Under the gold standard, this intend that the amount of money and wealth in the U.S. besides grew. furthermore, the Gold Rush accelerated the tempo of liquidation and development in the american West. identical little infrastructure existed in the region in the mid-19th hundred however. It was in truth placid frontier area at the time. The West was besides chronically short of gold neologism. This was exacerbated by the permeant miss of entrust in newspaper money. At the fourth dimension, unregulated “ wildcat well banks ” were springing up across the country. Paper notes from these banks would only be accepted at a steep discount rate to their face value, if they were accepted as requital at all. Since only aureate was trusted for commerce, a larger appellation gold mint would allow merchants and banks to transfer big sums of money more efficiently. even the institution of a newly U.S. Mint branch in San Francisco in 1854 did n’t alleviate the trouble. In answer many privately-issued amber tokens were distributed throughout the 1850s. Between the undependability of wildcat banks and the practice of privately-minted gold, you can get a glance of how different the economic landscape was rear then. We must besides consider the cost and logistics of shipping gold back and forth between commercial centers on the east coast and the western states and territories. One obvious solution would be a larger legal tender gold coin. In a bill introduced by California Senator William Gwin in 1854, each Half Union mint theoretically would have contained closely 2.5 troy ounces of arrant gold capacity. This would allow the new denomination to remain proportional in alloy value to existing U.S. neologism. It was to measure about 51 millimeter in diameter. The larger mint would provide a entrust way to facilitate smoother trade and transactions .half union heritage Liberty head design on the obverse of the 1877 Half Union mint. image : inheritance Auctions ultimately, Congress rejected the bill authorizing the newfangled coin. The proposal passed in the Senate but was rejected by the House of Representatives. It was seen as a regional issue, unimportant to political and economic interests back east .

The Mint Reconsiders the Idea

Summary: Profit-driven employees at the United States Mint revived the idea of a $ 50 gold mint in the late nineteenth hundred. 20 years after its initial marriage proposal, the idea of the Half Union was revived by Robert Linderman, the Director of the U.S. Mint. By then, federally-issued paper money ( known as “ greenbacks ” ) were widely available. The need for larger gold neologism had largely abated, making the $ 50 Half Union moot. many called it Linderman ‘s “ pet project. ” His motives for revisiting the $ 50 appellation mint may not have been wholly pure, however. Linderman had something in common with the former Mint overseer, James Ross Snowden. ( He was the uncle of american diplomat Archibald Loudon Snowden. ) Both men were ill-famed for selling unauthorized pieces to dealers, collectors, and members of Congress. They could then pocket the money for themselves. such mix of mint operations with private enterprise had been an issue since at least the dismissal of a Chief Coiner, Franklin Peale, in 1854. This type of drill was surely against the law, but the regulations against it were n’t rigorously enforced until 1887. headman Engraver Charles Barber ( son of his predecessor, William Barber ) created the purpose for the Half Union mint. Barber adopted a very like motif for Lady Liberty face left as had been used for the $ 20 double over eagle coin, which was designed by a former headman engraver, the late James Longacre. The revoke featured an heraldic eagle and thirteen stars. just two pattern coins—trial strikes of aim new designs—were made of the $ 50 Half Union. The new $ 50 coins never went into full product. Like nowadays, most of the public was absolutely unaware of its being.

In addition to the fifty-dollar gold piece, the mint besides drew up plans for an tied more ambitious $ 100 Union mint. Such a denomination was separate of the master 1854 legislation. No patterns were always struck, and only sketches made by Assistant Engraver George Morgan survived. You will sometimes see replica based on Morgan ‘s $ 100 Union design on privately-minted novelties today. About a twelve copper examples of the Half Union were besides made in 1877, however. They were distributed ( “ under the board ” of run ) among collectors close to Linderman and Snowden. Due to their rarity and oddity, these copper Half Union patterns inactive sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars to this day. possibly half of them are gild, i.e. gilded in a dilute level of gold. These were among many U.S. form coins catalogued by numismatist J. Hewitt Judd. The copper Half Union varieties are classified by the abbreviation Judd-1549, or J-1549 .

The Legacy of the $50 Half Union

Summary: The $ 50 Half Union gold coin mind never made it past the proposal stage, but it is hush admired today. The entirely two extant patterns of the Half Union made of 90 % gold presently reside at the Smithsonian Institution in the museum ‘s National Numismatic Collection. They are the property of the government and not legal to own. ( More on that under. ) Modern replica of the mint called half union tribute proofs have been made, but they do n’t quite capture the artistic skill and beauty of the original 19th-century invention. If you could own one, the Half Union would have pathetic collectible measure due to the rarity of equitable two patterns existing. The way these coins took to becoming illegal for private ownership was an matter to harbinger to the saga with the 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle. In the early on 1900s, the Half Union patterns were not in the hands of the U.S. Mint. They were in the possession of a high-end collector, William Woodin. Woodin would late become Treasury Secretary in 1933. His connections to the Treasury Department no doubt aided in his acquisition of the coins. finally, the mint powerfully advised Woodin to return the patterns ; he did indeed, but only in exchange for several early rare coins from the Mint Cabinet !1877 half union pattern reverse 1877 $ 50 Half Union practice ( inverse ) interestingly, the $ 50 denomination was later featured on commemorative coins. ( Keep in mind, commemeratives are not intended as circulating money. ) The best-known among these is the 1915 Panama Pacific commemorative half union, which was made in both orotund and octangular ( eight-sided ) shapes. If a coin with such specifications was issued today, it would be equivalent to approximately $ 4,750 in terms of melt value !

Buying $50 Gold Coins

The closest analogue to the Half Union is today ‘s bullion coins. These related products are IRA approved. interestingly, there are two modern U.S. gold coins that carry the $ 50 denomination. The modern 1 oz american Eagle gold bullion coins and the 1 oz American Gold Buffalo coins besides carry a $ 50 face measure, though their intrinsic value is far higher. Bullion coins are not intended for circulation, either, so they are n’t classified under the “ half marriage ” appellation. Although you ca n’t legally own a $ 50 gold Half Union coin, modern gold bullion coins are your next-best choice. Your purchase price will be locked in once you complete the checkout process. You can buy aureate from Gainesville Coins with confirmation, credit wag, bank wire, and cryptocurrency. We carry mint rolls of 20 coins and “ Monster Boxes ” of 500 coins for majority purchases. Every box is shipped discreetly and in full insured. Shop for $ 50 gold coins below, and please contact us at ( 813 ) 482-9300 with any questions regarding an order or our available inventory :

American Gold Eagle Product Details

The American Gold Eagle coin series was first released in 1986. These coins are struck at the West Point Mint in New York from .9167 fine gold ( a honor of 91.67 % gold ), which is besides known as 22-karat gold. This stands out from the traditional 90 % pure aureate used for the Half Union, or the .9999 fine amber used for the American Buffalo gold coins. The rest of the 22 karat alloy is made up of 5.33 % copper and 3 % flatware .2019 w proof one ounce american gold eagle The Type 1 blueprint of the 1 oz American Gold Eagle.

Including the argent and copper, each $ 50 Gold Eagle has a arrant weight unit of 1.0909 troy oz ( 33.93 grams ). The actual gold weight ( AGW ) is 1 troy oz. In terms of size, the coin measures 32.7 millimeter in diameter and 2.87 millimeter thick. Proof editions of the coin are available for collectors, while the standard bullion versions uses a Brilliant Uncirculated finish. The obverse blueprint was created by celebrated sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Lady Liberty is shown with flowing haircloth, carrying an olive arm in her leave hand and a burn flashlight in her correct hand. The U.S. Capitol Building is seen in the distance. The year-date is near the buttocks of the design, expressed in Roman numerals on older versions of the coin anterior to 1992. The new Type 2 reversion design shows a close-up image of a bald eagle. Up until 2021, the change by reversal depicted a family of eagles as created by artist Miley Busiek. A female eagle sits in the nest containing her young eaglets. We see the male eagle clasping an olive outgrowth, flying to meet them. Inscriptions include “ IN GOD WE TRUST ” and “ E PLURIBUS UNUM. ”

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