Obverse Image: Left facing Liberty with hair tied in a bun and wearing a coronet. 13 stars around.
Obverse Text: LIBERTY / 1854
Reverse Image: Eagle with wings outstretched clutching arrows and branch in talons, shield over chest with vertical stripes on bottom part and horizontal stripes on top part.
Reverse Text: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA / FIVE D. / S
The mint struck eagles and double eagles in some quantity (about 124,000 and 141,000, respectively). But it only minted a handful of quarter eagles (less than 250), and hardly more half eagles. The piece shown here is arguably the finest known. San Francisco expanded production in the next few years, adding silver coinage to the gold, and gradually assumed its position as a major producer of the nation's money.
Made of California gold, this rare coin was one of the first produced at the U.S. Mint branch in San Francisco. The mintmark, "S," is stamped on the reverse. California gold initially had to be shipped for coining to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, an expensive, slow, and risky undertaking. Meanwhile, private mints made coins that could be used in local markets. With the opening of the San Francisco Mint in 1854, gold could be converted quickly and efficiently into U.S. legal tender.
Currently not on view
Kendrick, Kathleen M. and Peter C. Liebhold. Smithsonian Treasures of American History
National Museum of American History. Treasures of American History online exhibition