This is a unique 1855 California Fractional Gold Dollar struck on an incomplete punched planchet. It is the only California Fractional gold coins known on any of the 25¢, 50¢ or $1 denominations that was struck on an incomplete planchet. There are a few California Fractional gold pieces known with small clips and 1 known with a double clip. This major gold mint error stands alone as a unique piece of California history.
There was a severe shortage of coins in the smaller denominations so the United States Branch Mint opened in 1854 in San Francisco to strike coins for circulation. The 1854 and 1855 gold and silver coins struck at the San Francisco Branch Mint were hoarded or exported. The extreme demand for coins was met by San Francisco jewelers who struck fractional denominations of gold coins in the 25¢, 50¢ and $1 sizes. There are over 450 varieties known to exist, most dated between 1852 and 1882. Almost all of the fractional gold coins were produced by the hammer method, which was striking the gold planchet between the bottom die that was stationary and the top die by a sledgehammer.
Coins struck on incomplete punched planchets are a rare occurrence. This error occurs when the blanking press only partially punches out the blanks. The sheet of metal shifts improperly. The press then fully punches out the blanks, while overlapping the partially punched ones, creating this mint error. Besides being unique, a fascinating aspect of this mint error is that the partially punched planchet is octagonally shaped. I cannot recall any mint error on either a U.S. or World coin struck on an octagonal incomplete punched planchet.
In researching major mint errors on California fractional gold pieces, it appears that there are approximately 12 double struck, 5 that are uniface (either struck with only the obverse or only the reverse die), 3 that are brockages (struck by a coin that was already struck) and 1 overstrike known. This is the only known California fractional gold coin that was struck on an incomplete punched planchet.
In 1864, the U.S. Government passed the "Private Coinage Law of 1864." This new legislation prohibited the manufacture of all private gold coins intended for use as money to circulate side by side with the officially struck U.S. coins. This law was mostly ignored by the producers of fractional gold pieces, who continued to strike them in the smaller denominations through 1882.
This Octagonal Liberty Gold Dollar is designated as BG-533 (Breen-Gillio Reference Book). It was authenticated and certified by PCGS as XF 45. It is amazing that this unique gold mint error exists and survived during the California gold rush era.
Gold Errors are featured in the NLG award
winning book, World's Greatest Mint Errors.