1860 Clark Gruber & Co. $20 AU Details, Repaired, Whizzed NGC
K-4, High R.6. An area above the eagle has been smoothed in an attempt to remove some heavy marks and the entire coin was subsequently whizzed. Several milling marks are also present (mentioned for pedigree purposes) in the obverse fields. This is an extremely rare offering, seldom seen either on the auction block or for retail sale. In most cases, if your collection warrants an 1860 Clark-Gruber $20, you must settle for a copper and/or "gilt" copper pattern which are occasionally offered in the numismatic marketplace, however ANY regular-issue example is very rare, no matter what it's condition. All details are sharp and well defined, and besides the obvious stated problems, this is a pleasing example. Even larger and more spectacular than the so-called "Mountain Ten" was the Clark-Gruber "Mountain Twenty" coin. This large double eagle was slightly larger and heavier than the standard $20 U.S. gold coin of the era. The obverse features a highly inaccurate depiction of Pike's Peak surrounded by PIKES PEAK GOLD and the denomination TWENTY D. below. The word DENVER is under the mountain. Since the dies were prepared, probably in New York, the die maker had never been to Colorado or seen the majestic mountain, hence, he designed it as a triangle appearing to be of volcanic descent. The reverse displays a centrally located eagle with outstretched wings. CLARK GRUBER & CO. surrounds it and the date 1860 is below. Today, it is thought that fewer than 20 genuine specimens exist.
Prior to 1864, it was legal for private individuals to mint gold coins of their own design. Since the value of an individual coin was based upon its intrinsic value of precious metal, coins of accurate fineness and weight manufactured by private firms were usually accepted at full value. In fact, several privately-issued gold coins were more readily accepted in certain regions than were Federal currency.
Most issuances of private gold coins were made in association with discoveries of major gold deposits. Beginning with the unexpected finding of gold in Georgia and North Carolina in 1828, scores of private minters produced millions of dollars worth of gold coins in denominations ranging from a quarter dollar through $50 gold slugs.
The last gold mining region in the United States where it was still legal to mint pioneer gold coins was the Territory of Colorado, during the period 1860-1862. By far the most successful private minter in the Pikes Peak region was the Leavenworth, Kansas, firm of Clark, Gruber & Co. The banking portion of the firm's operation opened for business in Denver City on July 10, 1860, making it one of the earliest banking houses in Colorado Territory. The Clark, Gruber & Co. Bank and Mint was built at the corner of McGaa (now 16th) and G Street (now Market Street).
A large portion of the firm's business was in raw gold: gold dust, gold nuggets, gold ore, even rough ingots. Within a few months, it became apparent that the expenses and danger of shipping the gold to the Mint in Philadelphia were too high. After determining that it was legal to issue coinage with a gold content worth more than its face value, the company obtained the equipment and dies needed to strike coins. The highly regarded firm was determined to establish a mint in Denver and issue gold coins valued at $2 1/2, $5, $10, and $20. With machinery and equipment bought in Philadelphia and New York, production began in July 1860. Clark, Gruber & Company was soon processing over $2,000 in gold dust daily, which they paid for in their own coinage or drafts. The minting equipment operated day and night eventually producing over $3 million in coins which became the dominant form of regional currency. It is not clear when Clark, Gruber ceased minting operations. There is some evidence the company made coins in 1862 using dies dated 1861. (PCGS 10138)