The Arlington Collection:
1852 $10 Moffat & Co. Gold Coin
Gold Rush Gold
It is an 1852 wide date $10 Moffat & Co. gold eagle minted in California at the height of the gold rush. After seeing some use (it's graded XF-40 by PCGS), it spent the next 150+ years at the bottom of the ocean when it went down with the S.S. Central America in 1857.
Contemporary accounts referred to the gold coins struck by Moffat & Co. as "Moffat's gold." In 1852, there was a shortage of coins in San Francisco and with merchants desperate for coins, Moffat & Company struck 8,650 $10 gold pieces.
Later in 1852, Moffat & Company was reorganized as the United States Assay Office. Most of the 1852 Moffat gold coins never left California and many made their way to the new United States Assay Office and were melted and restruck into $50 gold "slugs."
The wide date variety in The Arlington Collection is one of only eight recovered from the S.S. Central America shipwreck. This compares to over 1,000 1856-S and 5,000 1857-S uncirculated $20 double eagles that were recovered.
The small number of similar pieces recovered and the worn condition of this piece leads one to believe that this coin was probably "passenger gold."
"Passenger gold" is used by shipwreck hunters to describe both gold and silver coins that would have been carried as personal possessions by passengers or stored in the purser's safe. This is in contrast to the large bulk shipments of gold or silver that usually were shipped in canvas bags or wooden kegs. It is these large bulk shipments of mostly uncirculated coins that tend to make up the majority of recovered treasure.
The fact that this coin is well worn is what makes it so special. One can easily imagine all the California saloons and poker games that this coin probably participated in at the height of the California gold rush.